Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has been sentenced to just under four years in prison for concealing money he earned in overseas accounts, actions he took well before joining the Trump campaign.
The judge all but tossed aside a recommendation of 19 to 24 years in prison from Special Counsel Robert Mueller prosecutors, the Washington Examiner reports.
The surprisingly light sentence of 47 months is likely to see Manafort, who is 69 years old, released in about three years or less, as it includes nine months of time served. It fell well short of federal sentencing guidelines.
It represented an implicit rebuke to special counsel Robert Mueller, whose prosecutors had called for 19 to 24 years — a range that would probably have led to the long-time GOP consultant dying in jail. Manafort does, however, still face sentencing in a separate case.
Manafort was found guilty last year of five tax fraud charges, two bank fraud charges, and one charge of hiding foreign bank accounts. The charges were brought against him by special counsel Robert Mueller, who uncovered evidence of the violations as part of his sweeping investigation into President Trump’s alleged collusion with Russia to win the 2016 election.
Judge T. S. Ellis III’s sentencing provoked a response from President Trump, who tweeted: “Both the Judge and the lawyer in the Paul Manafort case stated loudly and for the world to hear that there was NO COLLUSION with Russia.”
“The Witch Hunt Hoax continues as you now add these statements to House & Senate Intelligence & Senator Burr. So bad for our Country!” he added.
Manafort’s attorney’s said it was wrong for Mueller prosecutors who were “attempting to vilify Mr. Manafort as a lifelong and irredeemable felon.” They said the vilification carried “beyond the pale and grossly overstated the facts before the Court.”
Judge Ellis seemed to agree when he remarked that the recommendation from Mueller prosectors of 19 to 24 years as not “at all appropriate.”
In court, they focused on what they believed to be the common nature of the crimes that Manafort had committed, pushing back on the idea that Manafort was a uniquely nefarious character. “These are serious crimes. I understand that. No one is disputing that … Tax evasion isn’t jaywalking, but it’s also by no means narcotics trafficking.”
Explaining his decision, Ellis said that he was trying to treat this case like another tax evasion case might be handled: “There’s been a trend in the sentencing in these types of cases — and the sentences have been remarkably light. And I need to take that into account. To impose a sentence of 19-24 years on Mr. Manafort would clearly be a disparity. In the end, I don’t think the guidelines range is at all appropriate.” Ellis said: “This is not a mathematical calculation, it’s a judgment. But it’s a judgment guided by everything that has been raised.”
The judge also said he was surprised when he did not hear Manafort express regret over his nefarious actions, but that it would not affect how he ruled in the case.Note: The author of this article has included commentary that expresses an opinion and analysis of the facts.