Paul Manafort Is Sentenced to Less Than 4 Years in 1 of 2 Cases Against Him


ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Paul Manafort, the political advisor and Trump presidential marketing campaign chairman whose profitable work in Ukraine and ties to well-connected Russians made him a goal of the particular counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, was sentenced on Thursday to practically 4 years in jail in the monetary fraud case that left his grand way of life and power-broker status in ruins.

The sentence in the highest-profile prison case mounted by the particular counsel’s workplace was far lighter than the 19- to 24-year jail time period beneficial underneath sentencing pointers. Judge T. S. Ellis III of the United States District Court in Alexandria, Va., stated that though Mr. Manafort’s crimes had been “very serious,” following the rules would have resulted in an unduly harsh punishment.

A staff of Mr. Mueller’s prosecutors sat glum-faced as Judge Ellis delivered his choice. Mr. Manafort, who has gout and got here to the listening to in a wheelchair together with his foot closely bandaged, had requested the decide for compassion. “To say I feel humiliated and ashamed would be a gross understatement,” he stated in a barely audible voice, studying from a ready assertion.

Of the half-dozen former Trump associates prosecuted by Mr. Mueller, Mr. Manafort garnered the harshest punishment but in the case that got here to a conclusion on Thursday — the primary of two for which Mr. Manafort is being sentenced this month. While prosecutors sought no particular sentence, some authorized consultants stated a jail time period that quantities to one-fifth of the lightest punishment beneficial had to disappoint them.

“It’s atrociously low,” stated Barbara McQuade, a former United States lawyer who teaches regulation on the University of Michigan and watched a lot of Mr. Manafort’s trial over the summer time. While “many judges do sentence leniently in white-collar cases,” she stated, “dropping all the way from 19 years to four years is absurd.”

[“I am a Caesar in my own Rome,” Judge Ellis once said as he demanded a breakneck pace during the Manafort trial.]

Mr. Manafort’s allies had long believed that Mr. Manafort had a chance of leniency from Judge Ellis, a Reagan appointee who sparred repeatedly with the special counsel’s team during the trial and has publicly voiced concerns that independent prosecutors have too much power. Minutes after the three-hour hearing started, Judge Ellis, unprompted, noted that Mr. Manafort was “not before this court for anything having to do with collusion with the Russian government to influence this election,” the core of Mr. Mueller’s inquiry.

Although Judge Ellis seemed swayed by the defense’s arguments, Mr. Manafort may face a less sympathetic reception next week when he is sentenced in the District of Columbia on two conspiracy counts by Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the United States District Court. Those charges each carry a maximum of five years. Kevin Downing, one of Mr. Manafort’s lawyers, asked Judge Ellis to order that Mr. Manafort serve both sentences simultaneously. But Judge Ellis said that was up to Judge Jackson.

For nearly two years, prosecutors pursued Mr. Manafort on two tracks, charging him with more than two dozen felonies, including obstruction of justice, bank fraud and violations of lobbying laws. They ultimately won Mr. Manafort’s pledge to cooperate after he was convicted of eight felonies in the Northern Virginia case and faced a second trial in Washington.

Judge Ellis said that Mr. Manafort “has lived an otherwise blameless life,” and he cited other tax cases that had resulted in minimal prison time. “The government cannot sweep away the history of all these other sentences,” he said.

The judge ordered Mr. Manafort to pay $25 million in restitution and a $50,000 fine. He also gave Mr. Manafort credit for the nine months he had already spent in jail, which could mean Mr. Manafort would be released in just over three years.

Mr. Manafort was a prime target for Mr. Mueller, who is believed to be winding down his 22-month investigation and is expected to deliver a report soon to Attorney General William P. Barr. While the prosecutions against Mr. Manafort did not involve his five months of work for the Trump campaign, prosecutors clearly hoped for the collateral benefit of winning his cooperation with the Russia inquiry.

At a closed hearing in February, Andrew Weissmann, one of Mr. Mueller’s top deputies, told Judge Jackson that it was highly unusual for the government to strike a plea deal with a defendant like Mr. Manafort who had already put the government through a trial. He alluded to the government’s motives for making such a pact, citing “enormous interest” in “the intelligence that could be gathered in having a cooperating witness in this particular investigation.”

But prosecutors abandoned the plea agreement in November, saying Mr. Manafort had repeatedly lied to them. In a recent ruling, Judge Jackson agreed that Mr. Manafort had deceived investigators about three matters.

One was revealed through an inadvertent mistake in a court filing in January that showed that Mr. Manafort had lied to the prosecutors about his interactions with a Russian associate, Konstantin V. Kilimnik, who has been identified by prosecutors as having ties to Russian intelligence. Those interactions included Mr. Manafort’s transferring campaign polling data to Mr. Kilimnik.

The special counsel’s office had wanted that information kept out of the public eye to protect an open investigation. It remains unclear why Mr. Kilimnik would want such polling data, what exactly he did with it and whether the data transfer might have helped inform the Russian government’s covert operation to interfere with the American election.

It is also unclear why Mr. Manafort lied about it; prosecutors appeared to suggest that Mr. Manafort might have feared that the revelation that he had turned over polling data would have reduced his chances of receiving a presidential pardon for his crimes.

Before Judge Ellis, Mr. Manafort’s lawyers repeatedly suggested that the special counsel’s office pursued their client because of his importance to the Russia inquiry. They said his political consulting work for four American presidents, including Mr. Trump, spoke to his high ideals. And they argued that the special counsel’s office had vilified him for what are essentially garden-variety crimes that for other defendants merited only limited time behind bars.

“Most importantly, what you saw today is the same thing that we have said from Day 1,” Mr. Downing, one of Mr. Manafort’s lawyers, said in a short statement outside the courthouse. “There is absolutely no evidence that Paul Manafort was involved in any collusion with any government official or Russia.”

While Judge Ellis faulted Mr. Manafort for not apologizing for his criminal conduct, he also noted that the special counsel’s office had not requested a specific prison term.

During the trial, prosecutors put forward exhaustive evidence of how Mr. Manafort had illegally concealed his work on behalf of political parties in Ukraine that were aligned with Russia and of how he hid more than $55 million in payments from that work in more than 30 overseas bank accounts.

Once his income from Ukraine dried up, the evidence showed, Mr. Manafort deceived banks to obtain loans to sustain a lavish lifestyle. At the same time, he worked for the Trump campaign at no cost, apparently hoping his status as campaign chairman would attract deep-pocketed foreign clients. He was fired from the campaign after five months when the scandal over his hidden income from Ukraine broke in August 2016.

“The defendant blames everyone from the special counsel’s office to his Ukrainian clients for his own criminal choices,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo.

Mr. Manafort was indicted on 18 counts in the Northern Virginia case, but the jury convicted him on only eight: five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud and one count of failure to disclose a foreign bank account. Because of one holdout juror, the panel deadlocked on the other charges. Mr. Manafort admitted that he was guilty of those as well, though, as part of his plea agreement.



Source link Nytimes.com

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