Washington, May 26 (IANS) A federal judge in the US state of Virginia has postponed the trial of Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman for two weeks, the media reported.
The trial date now is rescheduled to July 24, said Judge T.S. Ellis on Friday. He had initially set the trial date for July 10, Xinhua news agency reported.
The delay is “owing to a family member’s medical procedure,” said the judge, without further details.
Manafort pleaded not guilty in March to 18 criminal charges including bank and tax fraud in federal court in Virginia. At the time, prosecutors said in court that they planned to call 20 to 25 witnesses for the trial and the arguments could last up to two weeks. If convicted, Manafort will face up to 305 years in jail.
Manafort will go through two separate trials in total this year. Another trial on federal charges in Washington is scheduled to begin on September 17 and likely to stretch for several weeks.
In Washington, Manafort is charged with making false statements about his foreign lobbying work for pro-Russia Ukrainian politicians, and engaging in a money laundering conspiracy. These charges would bring a likely sentence of 15 to 20 years in prison if Manafort was found guilty.
All charges, which Manafort has denied in both courts, were levied during the ongoing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US elections and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.
Manafort’s long-time business associate Rick Gates, also a former Trump campaign aide, has pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy against the US and making false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), cutting a deal with Mueller.
“Manafort and Gates generated tens of millions of dollars in income as a result of their Ukraine work,” a February indictment said, “From approximately 2006 through the present, Manafort and Gates engaged in a scheme to hide income from US authorities, while enjoying the use of the money.”
Manafort and Gates were originally indicted in October on charges of conspiracy and fraud stemming from their lucrative lobbying work in Ukraine. The authorities at the time said Manafort alone laundered more than $18 million.
Trump has vigorously and repeatedly denied any collusion between his campaign and Moscow during the elections. The Russian government has also repeatedly dismissed the accusations of interference.