Paul Manafort Sentenced To Mere 47 Months In Prison In Virginia Case

Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, departs Federal District Court, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, departs Federal District Court, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
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March 7, 2019 7:00 pm
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Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was sentenced Thursday to 47 months in prison in the bank fraud and tax fraud case brought against him in Virginia by special counsel Robert Mueller.

He will also receive credit for time served, specifically the nine months he’s been in jail after the judge in his D.C. case revoked his bail due to witness tampering allegations.

The sentence was well below sentencing guidelines recommended by the probation office, which had advised a sentence range of 19-24 years.

“I think the sentencing range is excessive,” U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis announced before handing down the sentence. He said a sentence of 19 to 24 years on Manafort would create an “unwarranted disparity” between Manafort and other cases. Ellis called that sentencing range “not at all appropriate.”

Manafort also faces a $50,000 fine and will have to pay up to $24 million in restitution in the case.

Ellis issued the sentence after Manafort broke many months of public silence and addressed the court.

“To say I feel humiliated and ashamed would be a gross understatement,” Manafort told Ellis before the sentence was handed down. Manafort, his black hair gone gray, appeared in court in a green prison jumpsuit and remained seated in a  wheelchair. Manafort’s allocution was notably light on expressions of remorse. He alluded only to the “conduct” that had gotten him into his situation and the “questionable circumstances” he will avoid in the future.

“I was surprised that I did not hear you express regret for engaging in wrongful conduct,” Ellis told Manafort at one point.

After Ellis handed down his sentence, Manafort lawyer Kevin Downing spoke briefly to the press and emphasized Manafort’s claim that he did not collude with the Russians during the 2016 election.

“Mr. Manafort finally got to speak for himself and made clear he accepts responsibility for his conduct,” Downing told reporters outside the courthouse. “And most importantly, what you saw today was the same thing we have said from day one: There is absolutely no evidence that Paul Manafort was involved in any collusion with any government officials from Russia.”

The case was one of two Mueller prosecutions of Manafort. He will be sentenced in his case in D.C. next week. Among the things that will be decided is whether the D.C. and Virginia sentences will run consecutively or concurrently. Manafort’s attorneys on Thursday asked Ellis to make a ruling that the sentences run concurrently, but the judge declined, because he believed it was not in his authority to do so.

“I can’t, but she can,” Ellis said, referring to the judge in D.C. who will be sentencing him next week. He added that the attorneys were free to file a motion if the judge was wrong in his understanding of his authority on the question.

Manafort was convicted by a jury in Virginia on eight counts in the case there. Just as he was set to go to trial for the charges brought against him in D.C., where the allegations dealt with money laundering and failing to register his foreign lobbying, he pleaded guilty in a cooperation deal with Mueller — a cooperation deal that fell apart in recent months after Manafort lied to investigators.

The cooperation deal in D.C., and its subsequent deterioration, was referenced multiple times throughout Thursday’s hearing. Manafort’s attorneys stressed that he spent more than 50 hours in interview sessions with prosecutors. Greg Andres, a lawyer on Mueller’s team, pushed back that, “because he lied, it took longer to show Mr. Manafort what the evidence was.”

It appears that the 69-year-old Manafort is entering the final chapter in what has been a year and a half long legal saga for the longtime GOP operative. While he had a reputation for shady dealings when he was named to lead Trump’s campaign (one report dubbed his firm the leader of the “torturers’ lobby”), he was also credited for helping navigate the free-wheeling campaign through a tricky GOP primary. What the trial Virginia laid bare was that as he was ascending to the top of the campaign, he was also facing deep financial troubles and had turned to illegal schemes to alleviate them.

The jury convicted him of five counts of tax fraud charges, one count of hiding his foreign bank accounts and two counts of bank fraud.

The charges Mueller brought against Manafort stem mainly from his consulting work in Ukraine, and don’t address directly the probe’s focus on collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. However, in the proceedings in D.C. over the breach of his plea deal, there have been hints at what in Manafort Mueller’s team see as being at the “heart” of their probe. Those proceedings revealed that prosecutors were highly interested in Manafort’s 2016 interactions with an associate in his Ukraine dealings who has been linked to a Russian intel agency.

In the case in Virginia, Judge Ellis showed some antagonism towards Mueller’s prosecutors. In one early hearing, he accused them using the charges to get Manafort to flip on Trump. The prosecutors complained, particularly during the trial, that Ellis was pushing things too far with the skeptical questioning and derisive remarks made in front of the jury.

The jury was hung on 10 of the 18 counts brought by Mueller. A juror later told the media that there was single holdout member of the jury that prevented them from convicting him on all 18 counts, resulting in the partial mistrial.

Mueller brought the charges in February 2017, about four months after unveiling the grand jury indictment in D.C. Around the same time, Manafort’s longtime business deputy and then-co defendant flipped on his former boss. The deputy, Rick Gates was prosecutors’ star witness in the Virginia trial. However, Gates is also believe to be cooperating with other aspects of Mueller’s probe.

Mueller’s case against Manafort alleged that, over the last decade, he earned millions consulting for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine. He hid much of those earnings from the U.S. government in foreign bank accounts and through sketchy — and at times, illegal — accounting tricks, prosecutors said. When the political party was ousted in 2014, the proverbial spigot turned off. But Manafort did not rein in his flashy ways, the prosecutors alleged. In the months leading up to and during his stint on Trump’s campaign, which he worked on for free, he then turned to misleading banks to fill his coffers, the prosecutors alleged.

The trial highlighted that Manafort pushed unsuccessfully for an executive at one of those banks get position in President Trump’s Cabinet.

Even still, the White House has insisted that Manafort’s crimes had nothing to do with President or his campaign.

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