Manafort Jurors Ask for Definition of Reasonable Doubt

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Jurors deciding the fate of Paul Manafort ended their first day of deliberations on Thursday with four written questions to the judge, including, “Can you please redefine reasonable doubt?”

The other questions suggested that the jury was trying to grapple with some of the complexities of the financial laws that Mr. Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, is accused of breaking. Jurors asked about the requirements to disclose foreign bank accounts and whether it was possible to match the government’s 388 exhibits to the 18 counts in the indictment.

They might have found the answers from Judge T. S. Ellis III, delivered just before they left for the day, less than satisfying. He told them that reasonable doubt did not mean “all possible doubt” but was “doubt based on reason.” He told them they would need to rely on their own memories to line up the government’s exhibits with the counts in the indictment; they would receive no other guidance.

As the jury deliberated, Mr. Manafort, 69, sat in a holding cell on the first floor of the courthouse, waiting to hear whether he would be convicted of crimes that could land him in prison for the rest of his life. He faces charges of tax fraud, bank fraud and failure to disclose foreign bank accounts to federal authorities, brought by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.

The jurors’ questions could mean either that they were befuddled by some of the charges or that they understood enough to ask specific questions. “This is either a jury that’s having trouble reaching unanimity, or it is just extremely devoted to its responsibilities and really going by the books,” said Charles A. Intriago, a former federal prosecutor.

The jury also asked what constitutes a “shelf” company. Rick Gates, Mr. Manafort’s former right-hand man and a key prosecution witness, used that term to describe Cypriot companies.

The more typical term is “shell” companies, created to disguise who actually controls them. The prosecution has claimed that Mr. Manafort hid more than $60 million in income — at least $16.5 million of which should have been taxed — in foreign accounts opened in the names of the such companies.

Mr. Gates called them “shelf” companies, as in “off-the-shelf.” Such firms “have already been set up and remain on the corporate registry in Cyprus and that you’re allowed to use,” he testified. “It’s cheaper than to set up a company that you actually create a name for.”

The most complicated question posed by the jury dealt with whether Mr. Manafort was required to report foreign bank accounts to federal authorities if he controlled the disbursements from those accounts but did not have signatory authority or own more than 50 percent of the company that set up the account. Four charges in the indictment stem from his failure to file those accounts.

The judge responded by rereading a convoluted explanation he had given the jurors a day earlier.

The answer, if one takes the Internal Revenue Service definitions at face value, seemed to be yes.

Emily Baumgaertner and Emily Cochrane contributed reporting.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A13 of the New York edition with the headline: Looking to Judge to Help Define Reasonable Doubt. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe