A federal judge on Thursday denied a motion from President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort to suppress evidence seized from a Virginia storage unit by investigators working with special counsel Robert Mueller.
Defense attorneys argued the search was improper because the FBI got one of Mr. Manafort’s employees to open the unit rather than secure a search warrant or get permission from Mr. Manafort.
But District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia rejected their argument. She ruled the FBI agents did not need a warrant because Mr. Manafort’s employee had the authority to let them into the unit.
“Law enforcement agents do not need a warrant to enter a location if they have voluntary consent, and they do not need to have the consent of the person under investigation if they receive permission from a third party who has, or who reasonably appears to have, common authority over the place to be searched,” Judge Jackson wrote.
In a hearing last month, defense attorneys and government prosecutors sparred over the storage locker search. Defense counsel focused on the employee’s authority, painting him as a low-level employee who only entered the unit with Mr. Manafort’s permission. The government, meanwhile, noted the employee had a key to the unit and his name was on the lease.
Judge Jackson sided with the government, noting that the employee continues to work for Mr. Manafort’s consulting the firm. She said that “strengthens the finding that Manafort entrusted him with control over the unit.”
Mr. Manafort was sentenced to a Virginia prison last week after Judge Jackson held that he had attempted to influence witness testimony for his upcoming trial. He is facing money laundering and failure to report as a foreign agent charges in Washington and federal tax fraud, tax evasion and bank charges in Virginia. Prosecutors allege that he failed to report income on the consulting work he did in the Ukraine to avoid U.S. taxes.