WASHINGTON—The judge overseeing Michael Sussmann’s trial on May 19 denied a request from prosecutors with special counsel John Durham’s team to remove a juror who revealed having ties to Sussmann.
Juror #5 told U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper, an Obama appointee, that her daughter and Sussmann’s daughter are on the same crew team.
The woman said she did not know of this until her daughter mentioned it to her on Wednesday evening. Once she knew, she reported the fact to court officials.
Jurors filled out a questionnaire that included the question: “The defendant in this case is Michael A. Sussmann, age 57, who is a resident of Washington, D.C. Do you, any member of your family or close personal friends know, or have any connection with, Mr. Sussmann or any of his family members?”
Cooper wondered whether juror #5’s answer to the question had been different if she knew about the association. He also asked whether the ties would affect her ability to be fair.
“I would have disclosed it if I had known,” the juror said. She said she does not know Sussmann’s daughter and still doesn’t even know the girl’s name.
There are 30 to 40 girls on the team. The juror’s daughter is a senior while Sussmann’s daughter is a freshman.
The juror said she’s never seen Sussmann or his wife at any of the meets or practices or any other team-related social events.
Prosecutor Brittain Shaw, on Durham’s team, moved for the juror to be sent home.
“The government would have wanted to strike her for cause,” Shaw said. “We have no reason to doubt she is being truthful” but such contacts “as a parent can really shape” her outlook.
“Our position is she should not stand in the jury,” the prosecutor said.
Cooper rejected the motion.
The judge maintained that the separation in years between the girls and the large number of students on the crew team was enough distance for the juror to be impartial. He praised the juror for her honesty in coming forward as soon as she realized what he termed was “a tangential link.”
The trial of Sussmann, who worked for Hillary Clinton’s campaign when Clinton was vying for the presidency in the 2016 election and is accused of lying to the FBI when he said he was bringing claims against Clinton rival Donald Trump to the FBI on his own accord instead of on behalf of clients, started on May 16.
Sixteen jurors were selected, with four being alternates. The jurors do not know if they are on the jury or an alternate. The four alternates will not be in the room when the jury decides on a verdict.
Almost all of the juror candidates expressed “strong” antipathy to Trump. About half of them also said they didn’t like Clinton.