As widely expected, the judge in Paul Manafort's sentencing hearing gave the convicted fraudster a fraction of what the Mueller team recommended, as Manafort will end up serving just over three more years in jail, plus time served. However, Manafort still faces a second sentencing hearing on conspiracy convictions next week.
Paul Manafort, the political consultant and Trump presidential campaign chairman whose lucrative work in Ukraine and ties to well-connected Russians made him a target of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, was sentenced on Thursday to nearly four years in prison in the financial fraud case that left his grand lifestyle and power-broker reputation in ruins.
The sentence in the highest-profile criminal case mounted by the special counsel’s office was far lighter than the 19- to 24-year prison term recommended under advisory sentencing guidelines. Judge T. S. Ellis III of the United States District Court in Alexandria, Va., said that although Mr. Manafort’s crimes were “very serious,” following the guidelines would have resulted in an unduly harsh punishment.
A team of Mr. Mueller’s prosecutors sat glum-faced while Judge Ellis delivered his decision. Mr. Manafort, who suffers from gout and came to the hearing in a wheelchair with his foot heavily bandaged, had asked the judge for compassion. “To say I feel humiliated and ashamed would be a gross understatement,” he said in a barely audible voice, reading from a laptop.
Of the half-dozen former Trump associates prosecuted by Mr. Mueller, Mr. Manafort garnered the harshest punishment yet in the case that came to a conclusion on Thursday — the first of two for which Mr. Manafort is being sentenced this month. While prosecutors sought no specific sentence, they spent much of the three-hour hearing sparring with the judge over the evidence.
For nearly two years, prosecutors pursued Mr. Manafort on two tracks, charging him with more than two dozen felonies, including obstruction of justice, bank fraud and violations of lobbying laws. While they ultimately won Mr. Manafort’s agreement to cooperate, prosecutors said on Thursday that Mr. Manafort provided little information of value for their inquiry into Russia’s election interference and the degree of involvement by Trump associates.
Most of what Mr. Manafort told the office of the special counsel “we already knew or was already in documents,” Greg D. Andres, the lead prosecutor in the case, said in court. “It certainly wasn’t 50 hours of information that was useful.”
The evidence in the case tried last summer before Judge Ellis showed that Mr. Manafort hid millions of dollars of income in overseas accounts and lied to banks to obtain millions more in loans — a financial scheme that prosecutors said was rooted in greed and in Mr. Manafort’s sense that he was above the law.
They described him as a hardened, remorseless criminal who never fully accepted responsibility for his offenses and who continued to lie to federal prosecutors even after he pleaded guilty to two conspiracy counts in a related case in Washington and agreed to cooperate with the special counsel’s office last fall.
Defense lawyers had asked for leniency, citing Mr. Manafort’s age, health problems and lack of a criminal record. He will turn 70 next month.
And they got it. Here's the thing though: the judge in the Washington DC case is expected to be much less lenient. We can only hope Manafort gets the rest of his natural life behind bars for helping Trump steal an election on behalf of Russia.
We'll see. Trump won't be able to do much if additional state charges come through for Manafort, and I'm betting they will.