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From political operative to ‘humiliated’ inmate, Ex-Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort to be sentenced again  1 Week ago

Source:   USA Today  

WASHINGTON – Paul Manafort, the man who helped guide Donald Trump to the presidency, was sentenced to a total of more than seven years in federal prison on Wednesday after a federal judge added 43 months to the punishment he received in another case last week. 

The pair of prison sentences marks the end of Manafort's abrupt transformation from a globe-trotting political operative with mansions and lavish clothing to a frail-looking, gray-haired inmate in a wheelchair who, in his own words, had been "humiliated" by his changed circumstances. 

Manafort, speaking from his wheelchair in the packed courtroom, told the judge: "I want to say to you now that I am sorry for what I've done." 

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson appeared unpersuaded and delivered a withering rebuke from the bench. She said Manafort had spent much of his career "gaming the system," that he cheated taxpayers so he could maintain an extravagant lifestyle, and that he remained unrepentant despite his apology. "Saying I’m sorry I got caught is not an inspiring plea for leniency," she said.

The case, as well as a related one in Virginia, centered on Manafort's decade-long work as a lobbyist in Ukraine and resulted from special counsel Robert Mueller's two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

A federal judge in Virginia sentenced Manafort to 47 months in prison last week for a scheme to defraud banks and taxpayers out of millions of dollars he had amassed through his illicit lobbying. Jackson added more than three years to that in the related case in Washington, where he faced a maximum of 10 years after pleading guilty to conspiracy charges of not disclosing his lobbying work and tampering with witnesses. The nine months he has already spent in jail since June will count toward his sentence. 

Jackson's decision brings Manafort's total prison sentence to 7½ years. Manafort will spend three years on federal supervision when he is freed, and he is ordered to pay up to $6 million in restitution.

"It is hard to overstate the number of lies and the amount of fraud and the extraordinary amount of money involved," Jackson said.

Trump said Wednesday that he felt "very badly" for Manafort. Speaking to reporters during a briefing about drug smuggling, Trump said he had "not thought about" a pardon for his former campaign chief. "It's a very sad situation."

Manafort's legal problems are far from over. 

Minutes after Jackson finished sentencing Manafort, state prosecutors in New York announced that they had filed charges of their own, including counts of mortgage fraud and conspiracy. Because the new charges were filed by state authorities, they are beyond the reach of a pardon from Trump.

Jackson said Manafort's crimes were aimed at propping up an “opulent” lifestyle that included “more homes than one family can occupy and more suits than one man can wear.”

And she blasted Manafort for concealing his activities from the government and for lying to federal investigators after promising to cooperate with them. 

"If people don't have the facts, democracy can't work," she said. 

During the sentencing hearing, Manafort pleaded with Jackson to spare him from the prospect of spending the rest of his life in federal prison. "Please let me and my wife be together," said Manafort, who turns 70 in less than three weeks.

Prosecutors urged Jackson to impose a significant sentence, describing Manafort as a “hardened” criminal who “repeatedly and brazenly violated the law” for more than a decade and whose crimes continued even after his indictment in 2017.

“He not only kept what he was doing from the American public; he also kept what he was doing from the people he was lobbying,” Andrew Weissmann, one of the prosecutors, said.

For years, Weissmann said, Manafort hid offshore accounts, falsified tax returns and faked loans to disguise income he had earned in Ukraine.

"Paul Manafort’s upbringing, his education, his means, his opportunities could have led him to lead a life and to be a leading example in this country. At each juncture, though, Mr. Manafort chose to take a different path," Weissmann said. "He engaged in crime again and again."

Defense attorneys asked for leniency, saying a lengthy prison term would probably amount to a life sentence. They said that Manafort’s crimes did not rise to the organized crimes of drug cartels and that the charges weren't about “collusion” with Russia, which was the focus of Mueller's investigation.

Kevin Downing, one of the defense attorneys, said Manafort found himself entangled in the high-profile, high-pressure investigation of Russian election interference, even though he was charged with unrelated crimes. Downing also urged Jackson to consider the intense public scrutiny Manafort has faced since he was indicted.

"But for a short stint as a campaign manager (for President Trump), I don't think we would be here today," Downing said.

After the hearing, Manafort's lawyers castigated Jackson, suggesting the sentence was excessive and her personal rebuke of his conduct unnecessary.

“The judge displayed a level of callousness and hostility that I have not seen before,” Downing said outside the courthouse, where he was partially shouted down by protesters.

Last week in Virginia, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis, heeded defense attorneys’ call for leniency, saying Manafort had lived an "otherwise blameless life." Ellis' sentence of nearly four years fell far below the 20 to 24 years that federal sentencing guidelines had recommended.

Ellis’ decision surprised some legal experts and was promptly met with backlash, particularly from Democratic lawmakers.

A USA TODAY analysis of the U.S. Sentencing Commission's data found that Manafort received the type of sentencing available only to people who cooperated with the government. And his 47-month punishment in Virginia was lower than those of many defendants who prosecutors said were cooperative.

The analysis found that of the nearly 67,000 defendants sentenced in federal courts in the 2017 fiscal year, 308 whose guideline calculations called for them to serve at least 15 years in prison wound up receiving less than five years. Many of these defendants, unlike in Manafort's case, cooperated with prosecutors and the government asked for their sentences to be reduced.

Manafort's lawyers had asserted that he cooperated with the special counsel, citing about a dozen interviews with prosecutors totaling more than 50 hours. But prosecutors said Manafort had failed to provide useful information and had lied to investigators and to a grand jury.

Jackson also is presiding over the case of Roger Stone, another Trump adviser indicted as part of the Mueller investigation. Last month, Jackson found herself in the national spotlight after a picture of her next to what appeared to be cross hairs was posted on Stone's Instagram account.

More on Paul Manafort's legal troubles:

'Humiliated and ashamed': Paul Manafort, former Trump campaign chairman, sentenced to nearly 4 years in prison

Was Paul Manafort's sentence too light? Here's how it compares with other cases

Paul Manafort's lawyers say long prison term would 'likely amount to a life sentence' for Trump aide

'His criminal actions were bold': Prosecutors urge harsh sentence for Paul Manafort in court memo


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