Prosecutors Seek ‘Substantial Prison Term’ For Cohen In Harshly Worded Filing

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 29: Michael Cohen, former personal attorney to President Donald Trump, exits federal court, November 29, 2018 in New York City. At the court hearing, Cohen pleaded making false statements to Congress about a Moscow real estate project Trump pursued during the months he was running for president. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Drew Angerer/Getty Images North America

Federal prosecutors are seeking a “substantial prison term” for President Trump’s former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen.

In a harshly-worded sentencing memo filed Friday, prosecutors at the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office said Cohen committed “four distinct federal crimes over a period of several years” and “repeatedly used his power and influence for deceptive ends.”

In seeking substantial prison time for Cohen, prosecutors rejected Cohen’s contention that he should receive a sentence of time served given the cooperation he has provided in multiple state and federal investigations, including special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.

Prosecutors countered that Cohen had declined to become a traditional cooperating witness through a clear, written agreement. Though he provided substantial assistance to Mueller, he did not offer the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office the full cooperation that prosecutors sought.

Cohen’s request for leniency is based on a “rose-colored view” of his “extensive, deliberate, and serious criminal conduct,” prosecutors say.

In a separate filing, Mueller wrote that he is not seeking a specific prison sentence for Cohen, who admitted to lying to Congress last week. The special counsel’s office added that it would accept a sentence concurrent with whatever is imposed in the Southern District of New York’s case.

Cohen in August pleaded guilty to tax evasion, making false statements to a financial institution and two campaign finance charges related to hush money payments he made to women who allegedly had affairs with President Trump. Last week, he also pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about his involvement in trying to develop a Trump Tower in Moscow during the 2016 presidential election.

Per prosecutors, these crimes “were distinct in their harms, but bear a common set of characteristics: They each involve deception, and were each motivated by personal greed and ambition.”

“His offenses strike at several pillars of our society and system of government: the payment of taxes; transparent and fair elections; and truthfulness before government and in business,” they continue later in the filing.

The memo goes into extensive detail about Cohen’s “willful” evasion of paying some $1.4 million in taxes between 2012 and 2016 by failing to report income received through the taxi medallions he owned. Prosecutors allege that Cohen lied in his sentencing memo and in documents related to his pre-sentencing report, “blaming his accountant for not uncovering the reported income.” Prosecutors say some of Cohen’s bank records were never provided to his accountant.

The filing also discusses Cohen’s work to protect the President during his campaign by acting “in coordination with and at the direction of” Trump to purchase the rights to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal’s stories about their alleged sexual liaisons with Trump.

Prosecutors acknowledge that Cohen has cooperated with state and federal investigators since his guilty plea, providing information to Mueller that “was ultimately credible and useful to its ongoing investigation.”

That cooperation should be a “mitigating factor” for the court in considering Cohen’s sentence, but prosecutors note that Cohen refused to enter into the sort of formal cooperation agreement that would prompt the special counsel or Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office to file what’s known as a 5k letter, urging a lighter sentence.

“Cohen repeatedly declined to provide full information about the scope of any additional criminal conduct in which he may have engaged or had knowledge,” they write in the memo.

Outside of the special counsel interviews, they say, Cohen only confirmed information that was generally already known to law enforcement, like New York Attorney General investigators who sued the Trump Foundation for violating state charity laws.

The 40-page document offers a step-by-step repudiation of the arguments for leniency made by Cohen’s legal team. Rather than a blindly loyal foot-soldier for Trump, prosecutors say Cohen was motivated by the desire for personal advancement and “relished the status of ultimate fixer” up until May 2018. Rather than a charitable, good-natured family man, prosecutors paint Cohen as “threatening and abusive,” highlighting his “repugnant” threats to journalists who asked probing questions.

“Given the magnitude and brazenness of the conduct in this case, the interests of deterrence are best served by the imposition of a substantial term of imprisonment,” the prosecutors assert.

“The time-served sentence that Cohen seeks would send precisely the wrong message to the public,” they conclude.

Prosecutors asked the court to sentence Cohen to modestly less than the 51 to 63 months they say the sentencing guidelines call for, to reflect his cooperation with the special counsel’s probe.

Read the full document below.

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