Paul Manafort’s sentence is in, and former federal prosecutor David Weinstein has called it “a tremendous defeat for the special counsel’s office.”
District Judge T. S. Ellis has ordered Manafort to serve a 47-month prison sentence and to pay a fine of $50,000 and an additional $24 million in restitution.
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To help put the sentence into perspective, special counsel Robert Mueller was requesting that Manafort serve 19 to 24 years in prison. Those who have pleaded guilty to similar crimes have typically gotten twice as much time as Manafort received, at least according to Mark Allenbaugh, a former attorney with the U.S. Sentencing Commission. Even Manafort’s own attorneys were recommending more than 47-months.
“Clearly the [sentencing] guidelines were way out of whack on this,” said Ellis during the hearing in Alexandria, Virginia.
The Ronald Reagan appointee called Mueller’s recommendation “excessive,” and said that the 47 months were “sufficiently punitive.”
Manafort will be credited for the eight months he has served since entering custody in June 2018.
How he got here
Manafort worked for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign for five months in 2016, three of which were in the role of campaign manager. This was enough to make him a person of interest in Mueller’s investigation into Russian collusion in the 2016 presidential election.
As has proven to be the pattern of that investigation, Mueller did not find Manafort to be involved in any collusion – a fact which Ellis raised during the hearing. Manafort “is not before the court for any allegations that he, or anyone at his direction, colluded with the Russian government to influence the 2016 election,” he said.
But what Mueller did find was evidence of some questionable financial dealings. Manafort was specifically accused by prosecutors of hiding millions that he earned as a consultant for Ukraine’s government, and, after losing this money, lying to banks in order to secure loans. In August, he was convicted of tax fraud, bank fraud, and failing to disclose foreign bank accounts.
Troubles not over
Although Manafort remained silent during his trial, he did ask the court for mercy during his sentencing. “To say that I have been humiliated and ashamed would be a gross understatement,” he said, going on describe his life as “professionally and financially in shambles.” Manafort, however, did not express any regret for his crimes, something which Ellis did find surprising but not so much as to result in a harsher prison sentence.
Ellis may have granted him a degree of leniency, but Manafort isn’t in the clear yet. This upcoming Wednesday he will face another sentencing hearing, this time for two conspiracy charges involving lobbying and money laundering to which he pleaded guilty last September.
This sentence will be determined by District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, a Barack Obama appointee. Experts have a hunch that because Ellis went easy on Manafort, Jackson will likely go in the opposite direction, imposing the maximum 10-year penalty to start after, not during, the sentence handed down by Ellis.