Paul Manafort sentenced to 47 months in first of two sentencing hearings

VOA News / YouTube Manafort Trial Expected to Reveal New...
VOA News / YouTube

Former Donald Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort has been awarded a stunningly brief 47-month sentence. Manafort appeared on Thursday afternoon before District Court Judge T. S. Ellis in the same Alexandria, Virginia, courtroom where he was earlier convicted on eight charges of tax fraud, bank fraud, and hiding foreign accounts. On previous occasions, Manafort came into the court wearing a suit and tie, but on Thursday he appeared in a green, jail-issued jumpsuit. He entered the courtroom in a wheelchair, carrying a cane across his lap.

During the hearing Manafort’s attorneys presented requests for a reduced sentence on the charges. The attorneys then presented the judge with a statement from Manafort expressing his acceptance of responsibility. Ellis announced that Manafort was due no credit for the statement, since he disputed the facts at trial. When prosecutors got the chance to speak, they told Ellis that Manafort had given them nothing, and that the only reason they spoke to him for 50 hours was because what he did say were lies, which misled them and took time to resolve. After a recess, Manafort addressed the judge. Manafort opened by saying “The last two years have been the most difficult years for my family. Humiliated and shunned would be a gross understatement,” and that while he was in prison he “had much time to repent.” However, at no point in his speech did Manafort appear to confess to, or apologize for, his crimes. He delivered his speech from the wheelchair. After a brief recess, Ellis addressed Manafort and delivered his sentence. He announced that he considered the recommended 19- to 25-year sentence guidelines “excessive” and said, amazingly, that Manafort—convicted of eight crimes in his court and two in another—had “lived an otherwise blameless life, was a good friend, and generous person to others.”

Manafort becomes the fifth person sentenced under charges developed from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Trump adviser George Papadopoulos was sentenced to 14 days for lying to investigators. Attorney Alex van der Zwaan was sentenced to 30 days for making false statements. Richard Pinedo, a California IT specialist who helped Russian agents obtain fake identities, was sentenced to six months in jail and another six months of home detention. And Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen was sentenced to three years and two months for campaign finance violations, tax fraud, bank fraud, and lying to Congress.

The sentence handed down on Thursday will not be the total of Manafort’s punishment. He is due to appear in a Washington, D.C., court again next week to be sentenced on charges of money laundering and witness tampering to which he has already pleaded guilty. In that case, he will appear before district court Judge Amy Berman Jackson, the same judge currently dealing with Manafort’s former business partner, Roger Stone.

The 47 months isn’t the complete sentence. Manafort will pay an as yet undetermined restitution to the government expected to measure between $6 million and 25 million. He will also pay a somewhat laughable $50,000 fine and will be under supervised release for three years after his sentence is competed.

None of which makes the sentence much more than the lightest possible, and a slap in the face to the special counsel’s office.

Both former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump campaign deputy chair Rick Gates have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. Their sentencing hearings have been delayed due to their cooperation with the special counsel’s office and other investigating agencies.

Manafort’s statement that he had been “humiliated and shunned” seemed to mimic statements that had earlier been made about Manafort by Trump, increasing speculation that Trump may decide to pardon his former campaign manager.

The sentence badly undercuts the request from Robert Mueller’s team and certainly shows a disrespect for this team by Judge Ellis. This sentence is the kind of result that might reasonably encourage others involved in the investigation to refuse cooperation. The incentive to tell all they know for those like Roger Stone who are still facing trial, or those like Michael Flynn who are still facing sentencing, just took a dive.

However, Manafort’s sentence could be extended by 10 years if he receives the maximum in the second trial.

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John R. Frain
John R. Frain