- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 7, 2019

A Virginia federal judge Thursday sentenced President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort to 47 months in prison for bank and tax fraud.

Manafort’s sentence is the longest imposed on anyone connected to the president or given to anyone charged by under special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Still, it was well short of the 24 years in prison Manafort faced under federal sentencing guidelines. U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis called the guidelines “excessive” and imposed a sentence he said matched other bank and tax fraud cases.

“It is a just sentence, and I have satisfied myself about that,” he said.

Judge Ellis also criticized prosecutors from Mueller’s office for seeking the maximum sentence of 19 to 24 years.

“The government cannot sweep away the history of all these previous sentences,” he said.

Manafort, who was wheeled into the court wearing a green prison jumpsuit, told the court that he was “humiliated and shamed.”

“The past two years have been the most difficult years for my family and I,” he told the court in a brief statement.

He asked Judge Ellis to show mercy, adding that he “feels punished by the proceedings already.”

Still, he did not apologize for his crimes or admit guilt. Instead, he thanked the judge for his fairness during the trial. Judge Ellis said he was surprised that Manafort’s statement did not include an apology.

Prosecutors justified calling for a maximum sentence by arguing Manafort never gave helpful information during his more than 50 hours of interviews with Mueller’s team.

“The reason we met for 50 hours was because he lied,” prosecutor Greg Andres said. “He told us 50 hours of things we already knew. It certainly wasn’t 50 hours of information that was useful.”

Manafort’s attorneys have disputed that he lied to prosecutors, but focused their argument on how similar offenders received less than the maximum sentences.

“Tax evasion is by no means jaywalking, but it’s not drug trafficking,” Thomas Zehnle, a Manafort attorney said.

Thursday’s sentence marks a stunning fall for Manafort, a longtime political operative who advised American presidents and foreign dignitaries. He spent decades as a lobbyist amassing high-profile political connections and raking in millions of dollars in income.

In August, a federal jury convicted him on two counts of bank fraud, five counts of tax fraud and one count of failing to declare a foreign bank account. The jury deadlocked on 10 other charges.

The Alexandria, Virginia, jury found Manafort guilty of failing to report $16.5 million in income he earned in Ukraine on behalf of the country’s former, Russian-backed president, Viktor Yanukovych.

He also was found guilty of dodging taxes on that income, failing to register as a foreign lobbyist, and providing false financial information to obtain more favorable bank loans.

None of the crimes for which Manafort was convicted stem from his time with the Trump campaign, however. Judge Ellis made a point to emphasize that none of Manafort’s crimes are connected to the Russian collusion allegations Mr. Mueller is probing.

“He 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.

Manafort, 69, is expected to receive additional prison time next week when he is sentenced in a separate hearing next week in Washington. He has been jailed since June, when federal prosecutors said he tampered with two potential witnesses in a criminal case against him.

In September, Manafort pleaded guilty to similar charges in the Washington case, avoiding a second trial.

When witness tampering charges were added to the Washington indictment in June, the judge overseeing the case revoked Manafort’s bail.

Manafort would have been eligible to receive a lighter sentence had he stuck with the deal offered to him by Mr. Mueller’s team after he pleaded guilty in Washington.

Instead, the deal was revoked after U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson concluded he lied to Mr. Mueller’s prosecutors and investigators.

In the Washington case, Manafort pleaded guilty to two conspiracy counts. He also admitted his guilt to the 10 counts in Virginia in which the jury could not reach a verdict.

He will be sentenced in that case next Wednesday, when he could face the maximum sentence of 10 years.

Judge Jackson must decide whether Manafort will serve the two sentences simultaneously or whether they will be served consecutively. Mr. Mueller’s team has not taken a position on how to construct the two likely prison terms.

Still, Manafort’s former boss could spare him from spending the rest of his life in prison. In November, Mr. Trump told the New York Post that he would not rule out a pardon for Manafort.

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