Federal Judge Ellis demands sentencing date for Manafort, calls Mueller deal ‘highly unusual’

The federal judge who oversaw the fraud trial of Paul Manafort this summer is moving ahead with plans to sentence the former Trump campaign chairman, complicating Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s deal to have Manafort finish cooperating with his team first.

U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis on Thursday issued an order calling on both sides to appear in his courtroom Oct. 19 to set a sentencing date. In August, Manafort was found guilty of eight counts of tax and bank fraud in Virginia, while the jury deadlocked on 10 counts.

Facing a separate federal trial in September, Manafort subsequently struck a deal with Mueller’s team, pleading guilty to those charges. Under the deal, sentencing from the first trial would wait until after Manafort's cooperation was complete.

But in Thursday’s court order, Ellis called that "highly unusual."

"In this district, the government's decision to re-try a defendant on deadlocked counts is always made in a timely manner and sentencing occurs within two to no more than four months from entry of a guilty plea or receipt of a jury verdict," Ellis wrote.

Prosecutors indeed face a decision over the 10 counts on which the jury deadlocked in the August trial. The government has to decide whether to re-try those charges or throw them out. Prosecutors had asked for more time to make their decision.

The move was the latest by Ellis that could rankle prosecutors who recently gained Manafort as a key cooperator in the investigation into Russian election interference and any possible coordination with associates of President Trump.

During Manafort's weekslong trial over the summer, Ellis made a point of hurrying prosecutors and routinely threw them off balance with comments about their facial expressions, eye contact, trial strategy and their requests to introduce certain pieces of evidence that he found unnecessary.

Ellis, whose remarks during the trial in some cases led him to make corrective instructions to the jury, was also a stickler for the local rules of the Eastern District of Virginia where he presides. In his order Thursday, Ellis emphasized that Manafort's plea agreement entered into last month in a separate federal court in Washington didn't adhere to the usual schedule in his court.

It's unclear how the move could affect the amount of time Manafort spends in prison. In a filing ahead of his trial, prosecutors noted that under federal sentencing guidelines Manafort faced roughly seven to 10 years in prison on the tax counts alone.

Manafort will be sentenced separately in the District of Columbia case, which also stemmed from Manafort's work as an unregistered foreign agent that he carried out for the government of Ukraine and other Ukrainian interests. That work was the source of the millions of dollars he hid from the U.S. government.

In that case, Manafort pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the United States and conspiracy to obstruct justice related to witness tampering. Those charges carry prison sentences capped at five years.

Fox News’ Jake Gibson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.