Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, has been sentenced by a judge to 47 months in jail – considerably less than prosecutors had sought for the 69-year-old known for wearing $10,000 suits.
In what came as nothing less than a jolt to observers – prosecutors had requested he be jailed for up to 25 years – the man who served as Mr Trump’s campaign chief for a short but crucial few months, appeared to have been successful in his appeal to the federal judge TS Ellis to show mercy. There was no immediate reaction from either special counsel Robert Mueller or the president.
“To say I have been humiliated and ashamed would be a gross understatement,” said Manafort, who many expected could spend the rest of his life in jail after pleading guilty to tax and financial fraud in relation to his work for Ukraine’s former pro-Russia president Viktor Yanukovych. He said his life was now “professionally and financially in shambles”.
The sentence came after lengthy deliberations by the judge in Virginia on Thursday, who noted the crimes the former political operative was convicted of were not directly related to Russian meddling in the 2016 election, even if the special counsel’s office did charge him. Manafort is is due to be sentenced for other offences next week
Manafort, whose trial included revelations that he had spent $1.4m on clothes, arrived wearing a jumpsuit and in a wheelchair. The judge ordered him to pay $24m in restitutions.
In announcing his decision, the judge said Manafort was not being given credit for cooperating with that investigation after pleading guilty on separate conspiracy charges in Washington. But he also made clear he was “not before the court for any allegations that he, or anyone at his direction, colluded with the Russian government to influence the 2016 election”.
While Manafort pleaded for mercy, he did not offer any apology, something the judge noted. “I was surprised I did not hear you express regret for engaging in wrongful conduct,” he said, according to Reuters.
Manafort’s lawyers had argued their client deserved a light sentence as he was first time offender. They said in filings “the special counsel’s attempt to vilify Mr Manafort as a lifelong and irredeemable felon is beyond the pale and grossly overstates the facts”.
Yet, while the judge did not agree he should show leniency for this, he said he believed the prosecutorial sentencing guidelines that suggested the veteran political operative should serve between 19-24 years was “excessive”. He said other than the offences he had been convicted of, Manafort had “lived an otherwise blameless life”.
The special counsel’s office had earlier pushed back on any suggestion Manafort should be shown leniency. They noted that he attempted to tamper with witnesses during his trial last year, and that he continued to violate his plea agreement.
Mr Mueller wrote that “there is no reason to believe” that Manafort would not commit further crimes given the opportunity.
“Manafort’s effort to shift the blame to others – as he did at trial – is not consistent with acceptance of responsibility or a mitigating factor. Manafort has failed to accept that he is responsible for the criminal choices that bring him to this Court for sentencing,” Mr Mueller wrote.
The sentence marks a dramatic turn of fortune in the past two years for Manafort, who was once credited with securing Mr Trump the Republican nomination for president.
While the convictions Manafort has sustained did not revolve around the Russia investigation specifically, the case was brought forward by the special counsel’s office after evidence was uncovered during that investigation.
In August, Manafort was convicted on eight felony charges, but avoided another 10 counts when the jury failed to reach consensus.
The crimes he was convicted on included five counts of tax fraud, one count of failing to disclose foreign bank accounts, and two counts of bank fraud.
Before joining Mr Trump’s 2016 campaign, Manafort had acted as a foreign political adviser for a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine, which set the stage for the lavish lifestyle and crimes that have now led to Manafort’s heavy sentence.
Following his conviction in Virginia, Manafort went on to plead guilty in Washington on conspiracy charges, with the special counsel’s office agreeing to push for a lighter sentence as a part of that deal if he cooperated with the investigation.
That plea deal was thrown out by a judge last month after it was determined that Manafort had lied during his cooperation in several key ways. He will be sentenced for those offences next week.
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