The Associated Press
A federal U.S. judge has sentenced former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort to more than 3½ additional years in prison, on top of the roughly four-year sentence he received in a separate case in Virginia last week.
His second sentence in as many weeks followed a scathing assessment by the judge and a prosecutor of Manafort’s crimes.
Manafort, 69, faced up to 10 additional years in prison after pleading guilty in Washington to two counts of conspiracy against the United States that included a range of conduct, from money laundering to unregistered lobbying, and a second count related to witness tampering.
He was convicted of bank and tax fraud in Virginia, where a judge last week sentenced him to 47 months in prison for tax evasion and other financial crimes. That sentence was far below sentencing guidelines that allowed for more than two decades in prison, prompting national debate about disparities in how rich and poor defendants are treated by the criminal justice system.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said at the outset of the hearing that she would not be swayed by last Thursday’s sentence by U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis.
“What’s happening today is not and cannot be a review or a revision of a sentence that was imposed by another court,” Berman Jackson said.
Manafort, who has gout, a form of arthritis, entered Jackson’s courtroom in a wheelchair.
Jackson ruled Manafort should get a tougher sentence because he acted in a leadership role, directing others to participate in a crime, rejecting a defence argument that the sentencing enhancement should only apply to those who lead criminal organizations.
But she said Manafort should get credit for acceptance of responsibility, because he pleaded guilty to the conduct at issue.
Remorse rings hollow
A prosecutor with special counsel Robert Mueller’s office said Manafort didn’t deserve any credit because he repeatedly lied to investigators and the grand jury after his guilty plea.
But defence lawyer Thomas Zehnle said Manafort has “come forward” to take responsibility, and the topics he’s accused of lying about are about different ones from the crimes he admitted to.”
Manafort, centre, in a wheelchair, was also sentenced last week in Alexandria, Va., to four years in prison for bank and tax fraud. (Dana Verkouteren via Associated Press)
Prosecutor Andrew Weissmann did not recommend a particular punishment for Manafort, but delivered a scathing assessment of Manafort’s crimes, saying he concealed his foreign lobbying work, laundered millions of dollars and even coached other witnesses to lie.
Weissmann said Manafort’s crimes undermined the rule of law and committed crimes that “go to heart of the American criminal justice system.”
He said Manafort’s upbringing and education could have led him to an exemplary life, but that at each turn, “Mr. Manafort chose to take a different path.”
Unlike at his sentencing hearing last week, Manafort said he was sorry for his actions, but Jackson then told him his expression of remorse rang hollow.
“I am sorry for what I have done and for all the activities that have gotten us here today,” Manafort said.
“This case has taken everything from me already — my properties, my cash, my life insurance, trust accounts for my children and grandchildren, and even more.”
Jackson told Manafort that he had lied repeatedly and committed fraud repeatedly, and there was no good explanation for the leniency he sought.
“Saying ‘I’m sorry I got caught’ is not an inspiring plea for leniency,” Jackson said.
“The defendant’s insistence that none of this should be happening to him … is just one more thing that is inconsistent with the notion of any genuine acceptance of responsibility,” the judge said.
She sentenced Manafort to 60 months on the first count, half of which would run concurrently with the Virginia case, and 13 months on the second count, to be served consecutively — adding 43 months on top of the 47 months he received in the Virginia case.
That’s a total of 7.5 years in prison, minus credit for nine months already served.
Jackson ruled on Feb. 13 that Manafort had breached his agreement in the Washington case to co-operate with Mueller’s office by lying to prosecutors about three matters pertinent to the Russia probe including his interactions with a business partner they said has ties to Russian intelligence.
Jailed since June
Jackson’s sentence may mark the end of a two-year-old legal battle between Manafort, a veteran Republican political operative who worked for Trump’s campaign for five months in 2016, and Mueller, who made exposing Manafort’s covert lobbying for pro-Kremlin politicians in Ukraine a centrepiece of his Russia probe.
Manafort’s lawyers noted that none of the Mueller’s charges against him related to the special counsel’s core mandate:
collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.
“But for a short stint as a campaign manager in a presidential election, I don’t think we’d be here today,” Manafort lawyer Kevin Downing told Jackson, and asked her to take media coverage of the case into account in determining the sentence.
On Tuesday night, Mueller’s prosecutors updated a judge on the status of co-operation provided by one defendant, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and are expected to do the same later in the week for Gates.
The Mueller team has prosecuted Manafort in both Washington and Virginia related to his foreign consulting work on behalf of a pro-Russia Ukrainian political party.
The decision last week by U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III to sentence Manafort to 47 months stunned many who’d been following the case, given both the guideline calculation of 19.5 to 24 years in prison and the fact that the defendant was convicted of hiding millions of dollars from the IRS in undisclosed foreign bank accounts.
But Ellis made clear during the sentencing hearing that he found the government’s sentencing guidelines unduly harsh and declared his own sentence “sufficiently punitive.”
“If anybody in this courtroom doesn’t think so, go and spend a day in the jail or penitentiary of the federal government,” Ellis said. “Spend a week there.”
Manafort has been jailed since last June, when Berman Jackson revoked his house arrest over allegations that he and Kilimnik sought to influence witnesses by trying to get them to testify in a certain way.
Trump has not ruled out a presidential pardon for Manafort, and after last week’s sentencing said “I feel very badly” for his former aide. A pardon might not, however, end Manafort’s legal troubles.
Manafort has been indicted on 16 new charges in New York, including residential mortgage fraud.
Less than an hour after he left the court, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance announced that the new charges were filed in state Supreme Court last Thursday, alleging Manafort and others falsified business records to illegally obtain millions of dollars.