Amid legal challenges, Gates, Manafort get OK to spend Thanksgiving with family

(CNN)Former Trump campaign officials Paul Manafort and Rick Gates will be able to spend Thanksgiving with their families and leave their homes this week, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

The two men have been under house arrest since special counsel Robert Mueller charged them on October 30. Both have pleaded not guilty.
Manafort got the exception to be with his family on Thursday. Gates will attend all-day family celebrations Thursday and Friday. Neither will be allowed to drink alcohol, Judge Amy Berman Jackson said in DC District Court on Tuesday. Manafort and Gates did not attend the hearing, but their lawyers did.
    Gates’ hearing came amid a spat over whether he has been sincere in disclosing his assets to the government and as he has repeatedly requested to leave his home.
    The judge and federal prosecutors have prodded Gates and Manafort to provide proof of their worth and home values if they’d like to change their bail terms. In addition to home arrest, both wear GPS monitors. Manafort has a $10 million unsecured bond, while Gates’ is $5 million unsecured.
    Both men’s lawyers have said they’re trying to secure that bail with co-signers and assets.
    But even that has had its hiccups. In court Tuesday, the judge reprimanded Gates’ attorney for sending information about Gates’ home value through the clerk’s office instead of in a public court submission.
    At the same time, federal prosecutors are challenging one attorney for Gates, after uncovering the attorney’s ties to another white-collar defendant Gates had worked with as a Hollywood investor and whose brother might back his bail.
    In addition to Gates, the defense lawyer Walter Mack represents Steven Brown, who faces fraud and money laundering charges in New York. Brown is accused of taking part in a scheme that raised $12 million to finance feature film and documentary movies, then used that money to fund other projects, pay back defrauded investors or pay his and two other producers’ personal expenses, prosecutors in Manhattan said. All three have pleaded not guilty, and a trial is set to begin March 5. Gates was a partner in one of the companies caught up in those charges.
    Gates is not accused of wrongdoing in Brown’s case, and Mueller’s office said it doesn’t believe he’s a victim, either. But Mueller’s team pointed out in a filing Monday certain transactions that Gates had made with Brown, transactions that didn’t appear in his indictment last month.
    Gates and Brown’s film deals may even be tied up with Gates’ work for Ukrainian interests. Gates’ related work led to the first of Mueller’s indictments October 30.
    Gates and Brown “repeatedly discussed, including in meetings with Gates, the possibility that Gates would arrange for certain Ukrainian clients to invest in a print and advertising fund for film distribution,” the special counsel’s filing said Monday.
    While the judge didn’t decide on Tuesday whether Gates’ lawyer could stay on the courtroom team in DC, Greg Andres of the Justice Department’s special counsel probe said Brown wasn’t a witness in the government’s case against Gates. He added that he didn’t know whether Gates was a witness in Brown’s case.

    Feature film deals

    Brown and Gates worked together and have known each other for years, Mueller’s special counsel team said.
    In one business venture, their film production company invested more than $6 million in films called “Frenzy,” “Warriors of God” and an unnamed Swiss documentary, the filing said.
    Gates and Brown had debts of more than $3 million each with the film production company MAP Global Holdings. The company also worked with other producers on the film “Walk of Fame,” which was released this year and starred Clint Eastwood’s son Scott, the British actor Malcolm McDowell and the comedian Chris Kattan. “Walk of Fame” wasn’t mentioned as a Gates investment in the filing Monday.
    Twice, according to the filing, Brown directed Gates to move money into an account used as a personal fund for Brown and two other businessman, James Williams and Gerald Seppala.
    Aside from the movie investments, the filing notes stock that Gates and Brown owned in the stock brokerage GB Consulting. Gates withdrew $6 million from that account two years ago after shares in it lost almost three-quarters of their value.

    Potential legal conflict

    The federal prosecutors from Mueller’s office asked for a court hearing about whether Mack’s work for both Brown and Gates could become a conflict of interest. If the judge in the case doesn’t intervene, Gates may waive the lawyer’s conflict.
    The problem for Gates’ defense attorney would arise if either Gates or Brown became a witness in the other man’s criminal case. That’s still a possibility, Mueller’s team wrote.
    “However unlikely those propositions are, if any of them were to occur, Mr. Mack’s obligation to advocate diligently on behalf of his clients would come into conflict with his responsibilities to protect privileged information and to uphold his duties of confidentiality and loyalty,” the filing said.
    The challenge to his counsel comes as Gates is seeking to loosen the terms of his house arrest. He previously requested to leave his Richmond, Virginia, home for family activities, to vote and to attend Thanksgiving celebrations this week. Though the federal judge on his case let him vote in Virginia on November 7, he hasn’t been allowed to move more freely in recent weeks. Mueller’s office has said it opposes loosening Gates’ bail terms because it considers him a flight risk and because he hasn’t yet proven he can secure a multimillion-dollar bond.
    For instance, Gates listed Brown’s brother, Marc, who was his college fraternity brother, as a surety for his bail, Monday’s filing said. The federal prosecutors cast doubt on that relationship, because the two “have not had regular contact over the past 10 years,” and because Marc Brown insures some of Steven Brown’s bail already. Gates also misrepresented Marc Brown’s worth, Mueller’s filing said.
    Mack, who bases his legal practice out of New York, joined Gates’ defense team about two weeks after Gates was charged with money laundering and obscuring information about his foreign bank accounts and lobbying work related to Ukrainian politics. Gates’ primary defense attorney in court proceedings has been Shanlon Wu, who is based in Washington. The consultant and lawyer Annemarie McAvoy also works on Gates’ defense team.
    Gates pleaded not guilty along with Manafort, who shares some of the same charges.
    Mack declined to comment because the judge placed a gag order on the case prohibiting the defendants and attorneys from speaking outside the court.

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