July 18 (UPI) — Special counsel Robert Mueller on Tuesday asked a federal judge to give immunity to up to five people to testify in the Virginia-based trial of Paul Manafort.
The request came on the same day the judge, T.S. Ellis, of the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Virginia, denied a request by Manafort to have the trial moved from Alexandria to Roanoke.
The immunity request also asked that the identity of the potential witnesses be kept under seal. Prosecutors said the witnesses refused to testify or would refuse to answer certain questions if not given the protection.
“The five individuals identified in the motions at issue are third parties who have not been charged in this matter, and who have not been identified publicly with the case,” the court document read. “Disclosing the motions would reveal those individuals’ involvement in the investigation and the trial, thereby creating the risk of their undue harassment.”
The former Trump campaign manager is accused of lying to banks about his business income in order to get more than $20 million in loans.
The indictment says Manafort and business associate Rick Gates passed money they received from Ukraine through foreign bank accounts to conceal it from the Internal Revenue Service. The charges include preparing false tax returns, bank fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud and failure to disclose income from foreign sources.
Manafort has pleaded not guilty to the charges and denied wrongdoing. He sought to have his trial moved south to Roanoke, saying keeping it in the D.C.-area would threaten his ability to get a fair trial.
“Although there has been extensive press coverage of defendant’s pretrial proceedings, that coverage has not disrupted the ‘judicial serenity and calm’ to which the defendant is entitled,” Ellis said Tuesday.