A federal judge in Manhattan set to determine Michael Cohen’s fate on Wednesday has been presented with two starkly different assessments of Cohen’s conduct.
Attorneys for President Trump’s former lawyer have painted Cohen as a well-intentioned, loyal family man who got caught up in criminal activity as he sought to advance the interests of a boss he revered. Federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York (SDNY) have portrayed Cohen as a greedy, self-interested con man with a wanton disregard for the law.
All eyes will be on the Daniel Patrick Moynihan federal courthouse at 11 a.m. ET when U.S. District Judge William Pauley explains how he squares these two depictions of Cohen—and hands down his sentence.
Cohen has pleaded guilty to an array of federal crimes, including tax evasion, campaign finance violations and lying to Congress about his contacts with Russian officials. He faces the prospect of years beyond bars.
In a recent letter to Pauley, Cohen’s attorneys requested a sentence of time served, arguing that Cohen has already lost business contacts and friends over his legal troubles. Cohen’s cooperation with everyone from special counsel Robert Mueller to New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood should help reduce his sentence, his attorneys said.
Federal prosecutors in New York filleted this line of argument in their own harshly-worded Friday sentencing memo. Cohen repeatedly chose not to enter into a full cooperation agreement with the government and “specifically declined to be debriefed on other uncharged criminal conduct,” they wrote.
Prosecutors argued that Cohen deserves no credit for agreeing to provide the government with information after he already knew he was facing a severe sentence. Punishing a powerful, well-connected attorney who engaged in “willful” illegal conduct with “substantial jail time” would serve as a strong deterrent for other would-be white collar criminals, prosecutors said.
But the SDNY team begrudgingly acknowledged that Cohen did provide information to Mueller’s investigation that was deemed “ultimately credible and useful”—a “mitigating factor” that should be used in calculating Cohen’s sentence.
In a separate filing, Mueller’s team praised the “substantial lengths” Cohen went to to advance their probe. Suggesting no specific sentence, Mueller noted that Cohen revealed additional contacts between himself and a Russian national, key details about his effort to develop a Trump Tower in Moscow, and other information about the inner workings of the Trump Organization’s foreign deals.
Under federal sentencing guidelines, Cohen faces a range of 51 to 63 months. SDNY prosecutors suggested in their memo that he receive a slightly lighter sentence given his cooperation with Mueller.
Former federal prosecutors who have tried cases before Pauley say that the judge is a “stern sentencer” who does not look kindly on defendants who abused their authority to advance their careers.
Pauley could order that Cohen be taken into custody immediately, or allow him time to get his affairs in order before reporting to prison. Cohen has pledged to keep cooperating with the government after his sentencing is complete.