Former Donald Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s prison sentence has been cut short because of the novel coronavirus. Manafort was convicted on eight charges of tax fraud, bank fraud, and hiding foreign accounts related to his Ukraine work. He received a seven-year sentence. Now he’s being released to home confinement.
He was released from FCI Loretto prison in Pennsylvania early Wednesday. Manafort’s attorneys requested his early release last month, citing his age and health as putting him at higher risk of death from the novel coronavirus. As of mid-April when the request was made, there were no reported cases of the disease at FCI Loretto but Manafort had been placed in quarantine as of March 30. That made him eligible to be transferred to home confinement based on a directive from the Department of Justice on April 3. That directive, however, seems to be pretty selective.
Attorney General William Barr issued that order in early April only to take it back a few weeks later, causing confusion in the Bureau of Prisons system. Interestingly enough, one of the prisoners whose early release was rescinded is none other than Michael Cohen.
You remember him: the former Trump lawyer and fixer, or the “rat” who was convicted and sentenced to three years for numerous tax fraud and perjury charges. He is supposedly writing a book about his time working with Trump. In a totally not coincidental occurrence, the same week Cohen’s planned early release was rescinded, he “received a letter from lawyers representing the Trump Organization demanding Cohen halt writing a ‘tell-all book’ about his time working for the president, according to sources familiar with the matter.”
There have been confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the prison camp in Otisville, New York, where he is confined. Cohen and the other prisoners at Otisville were told in mid-April they would be released to home confinement, but two weeks later all of them were told they were losing the privilege of early release to home confinement. That sure does seem unfair, and the decision sure does seem very political. It could also just be the typical Trump administration incompetence. But it’s probably politics.