Paul Manafort Dodges A Bullet On Sentencing

Paul Manafort walked into court yesterday facing the possibility of 20 years in prison. He came away with a much better outcome.

Heading into yesterday’s late afternoon sentencing hearing in the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, former Trump campaign manager and longtime political consultant Paul Manafort was facing the prospect of spending the next two decades in Federal prison, a sentence that given his age would have likely guaranteed that he would die in custody and never see the outside world again. By the time the day ended and Judge T.S. Ellis had handed down his sentence, though, it was obvious that Manafort had, at least for the moment, dodged a bullet:

Paul Manafort, the political consultant and Trump presidential campaign chairman whose lucrative work in Ukraine and ties to well-connected Russians made him a target of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, was sentenced on Thursday to nearly four years in prison in the financial fraud case that left his grand lifestyle and power-broker reputation in ruins.

The sentence in the highest-profile criminal case mounted by the special counsel’s office was far lighter than the 19- to 24-year prison term recommended under sentencing guidelines. Judge T. S. Ellis III of the United States District Court in Alexandria, Va., said that although Mr. Manafort’s crimes were “very serious,” following the guidelines would have resulted in an unduly harsh punishment.

A team of Mr. Mueller’s prosecutors sat glum-faced as Judge Ellis delivered his decision. Mr. Manafort, who has gout and came to the hearing in a wheelchair with his foot heavily bandaged, had asked the judge for compassion. “To say I feel humiliated and ashamed would be a gross understatement,” he said in a barely audible voice, reading from a prepared statement.

Of the half-dozen former Trump associates prosecuted by Mr. Mueller, Mr. Manafort garnered the harshest punishment yet in the case that came to a conclusion on Thursday — the first of two for which Mr. Manafort is being sentenced this month. While prosecutors sought no specific sentence, some legal experts said a prison term that amounts to one-fifth of the lightest punishment recommended had to disappoint them.

“It’s atrociously low,” said Barbara McQuade, a former United States attorney who teaches law at the University of Michigan and watched much of Mr. Manafort’s trial over the summer. While “many judges do sentence leniently in white-collar cases,” she said, “dropping all the way from 19 years to four years is absurd.”

Mr. Manafort’s allies had long believed that Mr. Manafort had a chance of leniency from Judge Ellis, a Reagan appointee who sparred repeatedly with the special counsel’s team during the trial and has publicly voiced concerns that independent prosecutors have too much power. Minutes after the three-hour hearing started, Judge Ellis, unprompted, noted that Mr. Manafort was “not before this court for anything having to do with collusion with the Russian government to influence this election,” the core of Mr. Mueller’s inquiry.

Although Judge Ellis seemed swayed by the defense’s arguments, Mr. Manafort may face a less sympathetic reception next week when he is sentenced in the District of Columbia on two conspiracy counts by Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the United States District Court. Those charges each carry a maximum of five years. Kevin Downing, one of Mr. Manafort’s lawyers, asked Judge Ellis to order that Mr. Manafort serve both sentences simultaneously. But Judge Ellis said that was up to Judge Jackson.

For nearly two years, prosecutors pursued Mr. Manafort on two tracks, charging him with more than two dozen felonies, including obstruction of justice, bank fraud and violations of lobbying laws. They ultimately won Mr. Manafort’s pledge to cooperate after he was convicted of eight felonies in the Northern Virginia case and faced a second trial in Washington.

But although he met with the special counsel’s office for a total of about 50 hours, prosecutors said on Thursday that Mr. Manafort provided little information of value for their inquiry into how Russian operatives interfered in the 2016 presidential race and whether any Trump associates conspired with them.

Most of what Mr. Manafort told the office of the special counsel “we already knew or was already in documents,” Greg D. Andres, the lead prosecutor in the case, said in court. “It certainly wasn’t 50 hours of information that was useful.”

The evidence in the case before Judge Ellis showed that Mr. Manafort hid millions of dollars of income in overseas accounts and lied to banks to obtain millions more in loans — a financial scheme that prosecutors said was rooted in greed and in Mr. Manafort’s sense that he was above the law.

They described him as a hardened, remorseless criminal who never fully accepted responsibility for his offenses and who continued to lie to federal prosecutors even after he pleaded guilty to two conspiracy counts in a related case in Washington and agreed to cooperate with the special counsel’s office last fall.

But defense lawyers cited Mr. Manafort’s age, health problems and lack of a criminal record. He will turn 70 next month.

Judge Ellis said that Mr. Manafort “has lived an otherwise blameless life,” and he cited other tax cases that had resulted in minimal prison time. “The government cannot sweep away the history of all these other sentences,” he said.

The judge ordered Mr. Manafort to pay $25 million in restitution and a $50,000 fine. He also gave Mr. Manafort credit for the nine months he had already spent in jail, which could mean Mr. Manafort would be released in just over three years.

More from The Washington Post:

Paul Manafort, who once served as President Trump’s campaign chairman, was sentenced to nearly four years in prison Thursday for cheating on his taxes and bank fraud — a far lesser sentence than the roughly 20 years he had faced under federal sentencing guidelines.

U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III called that guidelines calculation “excessive” and sentenced the longtime lobbyist instead to 47 months in prison.

Apparently aware that he might be criticized for not imposing a longer prison term, Ellis told a packed courtroom in Alexandria, Va. that anyone who didn’t think the punishment was tough enough should “go and spend a day, a week in jail or in the federal penitentiary. He has to spend 47 months.”

Wearing a green jail uniform that said “ALEXANDRIA INMATE” on the back, Manafort, 69, sat in a wheelchair for the entire hearing and did not visibly react when the sentence was read by the judge. At times while the judge spoke, Manafort closed his eyes.

Prosecutors have painted Manafort as an incorrigible cheat who must be made to understand the seriousness of his wrongdoing. Manafort contends he is mere collateral damage in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election.

At a trial last year, Manafort was found guilty of hiding millions he made lobbying on behalf of Ukrainian politicians in overseas bank accounts, then falsifying his finances to get loans when his patrons lost power. Prosecutors highlighted his lavish lifestyle, saying his crimes were used to pay for high-end clothes and multiple properties.

Ellis said the sentence he imposed was more in line with others who had been convicted of similar crimes.

The judge noted that he must consider the entirety of Manafort’s life when issuing a sentence, saying letters show Manafort has been “a good friend” and a “generous person” but that that “can’t erase the criminal activity.” Manafort’s tax crimes, the judge said, were “a theft of money from everyone who pays taxes.”

Ellis expressed some sympathy for the GOP consultant, who had worked on the presidential campaigns of Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, becoming a Washington insider and high-flying consultant for hire.

“He’s lived an otherwise blameless life,” Ellis said. The judged noted Manafort has no past criminal history and “earned the admiration of a number of people” who wrote letters to the court.

Before the sentence was imposed, Manafort asked the judge to consider how much he has already suffered.

“The last two years have been the most difficult years for my family and I,” Manafort said. “To say that I feel humiliated and ashamed would be a gross understatement.”

Speaking from his chair, he asked for “compassion,” adding, “I know it is my conduct that has brought me here.”

The disgraced consultant thanked the judge for “the fairness of the trial you conducted.”

Manafort said the “media frenzy” surrounding the case had taken a toll on him and that “my life is professionally and financially in shambles.”

But, he added, he hopes “to turn the notoriety into a positive and show who I really am.”

The worst pain, he said, “is the pain my family is feeling,” adding that he had drawn strength from the “outpouring of support” he had received.

The judge later told Manafort: “I was surprised that I did not hear you express regret for engaging in wrong conduct.” That did not affect his sentence, “but I hope you will reflect on it and that your regret will be that you did not comply with the law,” Ellis said.

Manafort has already spent nine months in jail — meaning the sentence imposed Thursday could end in less than three years, with an additional reduction for good behavior. Manafort was also ordered to pay a fine of $50,000.

(…)

Sentencing guidelines in the Virginia case had called for Manafort to serve between 19½ and 24 years in prison, after a jury found him guilty of eight charges and deadlocked on 10 others.

Legal experts had generally expected Ellis to sentence somewhere below the guideline range, but some were surprised by how far he went.

“It’s a low sentence,” said Timothy Belevetz, a former prosecutor in the Eastern District of Virginia. “Four years is nothing to sneeze at, but I think it is a little surprising because it’s such a big variance from the guidelines.”

Robert Mintz, a former federal prosecutor now in private practice, said he expected such a sentence.

“Given the age and the health of this defendant, this is the kind of sentence that you can generally expect in a white-collar prosecution,” Mintz said. “The sentencing guidelines and the request by the government for 19 to 24 years was something the judge was never going to seriously entertain, and I think what we saw here was a recognition that even this sentence could well be a life sentence for Mr. Manafort.”

The first skirmish in the hearing came when Manafort’s attorneys argued with federal prosecutors over those guidelines and whether Manafort deserved any credit for “acceptance of responsibility.”

Manafort’s attorneys noted he spent 50 hours in proffer sessions with the special counsel for his plea agreement in the D.C. case. But prosecutor Greg Andres said Manafort’s purported cooperation was worthless — he either told prosecutors things they already knew, or told falsehoods.

“He did not provide valuable cooperation,” Andres said. “He lied.”

Manafort’s lawyer Kevin Downing told a crowd of reporters outside the courthouse that his client “finally got the chance to speak.”

“He accepted responsibility for his conduct,” Downing said. “There is absolutely no evidence Paul Manafort worked in collusion with any government official from Russia.”

While it isn’t unusual for Federal Judges to deviate downward in sentencing from what the Federal Sentencing Guidelines in cases involving defendants with no prior criminal record, a downward deviation from a minimum of 20 years to what will effectively be roughly three years once Manafort is given credit for time served is somewhat unusual. This is especially true in a case such as this, where the Defendant took the case all the way to trial and a verdict as Manafort did and where there was clear and convincing evidence that Manafort had continued to commit crimes even after being convicted and, astoundingly, even after his bail was revoked and he pled guilty and began cooperating with the Mueller investigation. Given that, a Federal Judge would have seemingly been justified in throwing the book at Manafort, or at least not cutting him as huge a break as Judge Ellis did in this case.

On some level, though, it’s not surprising that sentencing ended up being as relatively lenient as it turned out to be, both because of the history of this particular Judge and the manner in which he had acted throughout the case. Even outside of this case, Judge T.S. Ellis III, who has been on the bench since being appointed by President Reagan in 1987 and has been a Senior Judge in the Eastern District of Virginia since 2007, has long had a reputation for deviating downward from sentencing guidelines in white-collar cases involving Defendants with no prior criminal record. Additionally, as noted above, at several points during the pre-trial and trial phases of the Virginia case against Manafort Ellis expressed frustration with the prosecutors from Mueller’s team, at one point remarking that it seemed as if they were simply “putting the screws” to Manafort in an effort to gain his cooperation in what Ellis referred to as “other matters,” an obvious reference to the ongoing Russia investigation. Taking all this into account, it’s not surprising that Ellis deviated from the sentencing guidelines although, as noted, the extent of the downward revision does seem to be unusual.

If Manafort received a break yesterday, though, things may not go nearly as well when he is sentenced next week by Judge Amy Berman Jackson in the D.C. criminal case against him:

Paul Manafort won leniency Thursday from a federal judge who sent him to prison for less than four years, but next week he’ll be sentenced in a second case by a less forgiving judge who could add another 10 years to his term.

Manafort, 69, faced as long as 24 years in prison after jurors in Alexandria, Virginia, convicted him last year of hiding $55 million in offshore accounts, failing to pay $6 million in taxes, and defrauding banks. But U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III said Thursday that a quarter-century behind bars was too extreme, and sentenced Manafort to 47 months.

Next, Manafort will be sentenced on March 13 by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington, where he pleaded guilty to two conspiracy charges and pledged to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

It was Jackson who sent Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, to jail on June 15 after prosecutors accused him of tampering with witnesses. She also ruled last month that he breached his plea deal by lying to prosecutors.

Gene Rossi, a former federal prosecutor, said Ellis may have assumed that Jackson will impose “significant additional time.”

“That was in part why he went relatively easy on Paul Manafort,” Rossi said. “Being sentenced to four years in prison is nothing to sneeze at if he’s going to get additional time in D.C. At the end of the day, he’ll serve about seven years in prison.”

Jackson will punish Manafort for conspiring to secretly lobby the U.S. on behalf of a pro-Russian Ukrainian regime and for plotting with a Russian associate to tamper with witnesses.

(…)

In Washington, Jackson previously ruled that Manafort deliberately lied about his contacts with Kilimnik, calling it an “attempt to shield his Russian conspirator from liability” and saying it raised “legitimate questions about where his loyalties lie.”

Prosecutors said that during the 2016 campaign, Manafort shared Trump polling data with Kilimnik, and they discussed a peace plan to resolve sanctions imposed on Russia after it annexed Ukraine. Mueller also appeared to examine whether Manafort and Kilimnik possibly were a back channel for communications between Russia and Trump, but neither man was accused of that.

Mueller also investigated whether Manafort sought a presidential pardon from Trump — a possibility that still exists.

In addition to the length of the sentence she may hand down, the biggest question with respect to Judge Berman’s sentence will be whether she rules that the sentence will be served concurrently or consecutively. If Berman decides that the sentence should be served concurrently, then any sentence that Manafort receives in the D.C. case will be served at essentially the same time as his sentence in the Virginia case. This means that if he gets, to pick a number, six years in the D.C. case then he would get credit for the time served in the Virginia case toward his D.C. sentence and would essentially serve no more than the difference between the D.C. and Virginia sentences, assuming of course that the D.C. sentence is longer the Virginia sentence. If she decides that his sentence in the D.C. sentence should be served consecutively, then he would not begin serving his D.C. sentence until he had completed serving the Virginia sentence. This potentially means that he could spend a maximum of the next 14 years in Federal prison.

Based on the outcome of the Virginia trial, the nature of his crimes and extent of his criminal activity, the fact that he continued committing crimes after being charged in the Virginia and D.C. cases and even after entering into a plea agreement with the Special Counsel’s Office, and the fact that he still wasn’t expressing remorse at sentencing, I tend to agree that Judge Ellis’s sentence here is inappropriately lenient. One can make a valid argument that a minimum of nearly 20 years for a Defendant in Manafort’s position would have been overly excessive, but at the same time, it seems clear that he deserved more than just the relative slap on the wrist that he received here. This is a Defendant who deceived people, lied, hid assets, openly violated Federal law, and hid income to avoid taxes and did so to a degree that is utterly shocking. Given that, he should have been treated far more severely than he was. This is especially true given the fact that Defendants who commit crimes involving far less money often receive far less leniency. I suppose it pays to be able to afford a team of high-priced lawyers, eh?

FILED UNDER: Crime, Law and the Courts, Russia Investigation, US Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Mikey says:

    This is absolutely ludicrous, and raises serious questions about Ellis’ impartiality:

    “He’s lived an otherwise blameless life,” Ellis said.

    Hundreds of dead Ukranians were unavailable for comment.

    One can only hope Amy Berman Jackson has a tighter relationship with reality.

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  2. drj says:

    Judge T.S. Ellis III […] has long had a reputation for deviating downward from sentencing guidelines in white-collar cases involving Defendants with no prior criminal record.

    Extending empathy only to those you can directly relate to is a very, very common trait among conservatives.

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  3. SenyorDave says:

    Even outside of this case, Judge T.S. Ellis III, who has been on the bench since being appointed by President Reagan in 1987 and has been a Senior Judge in the Eastern District of Virginia since 2007, has long had a reputation for deviating downward from sentencing guidelines in white-collar cases WHO ARE ALMOST ALWAYS WHITE MALES involving Defendants with no prior criminal record.

    FTFY

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  4. Kit says:

    No prior criminal record… That makes sense when someone gets caught committing his first crime, not after getting caught for the first time after a lifetime of crime.

    Ellis expressed frustration with the prosecutors from Mueller’s team, at one point remarking that it seemed as if they were simply “putting the screws” to Manafort in an effort to gain his cooperation

    Words fail me.

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  5. Guarneri says:

    The blood thirsty are out early today.

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  6. Kathy says:

    Overall I’m not vindictive, and I regard the value of punishment only in relation to bringing about a desired outcome. from that perspective, the slap on the wrist Manafort got doesn’t trouble me.

    On the other hand, lots of people have gotten much harsher sentences for much lesser offenses. That is incredibly unfair. But the fix for that problem lies in rationalizing the sentencing guidelines and enforcing them adequately, rather than in giving people like Manafort longer sentences.

    I predict this point of view will prove unpopular.

    What I mean is drug users, small-time thieves, and the like ought to get shorter sentences, and giving Manafort three life terms to serve consecutively doesn’t help the former one bit.

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  7. drj says:

    @Kathy:

    What I mean is drug users, small-time thieves, and the like ought to get shorter sentences, and giving Manafort three life terms to serve consecutively doesn’t help the former one bit.

    Sure, but giving Manafort a more lenient sentence doesn’t help “drug users, small-time thieves, and the like” at all.

    So what are we (as a society) telling people by giving Manafort a lenient sentence? What are we teaching the people doing time for a few ounces of marijuana about how criminal laws are being enforced?

    Hint: it’s nothing good.

    Especially since Manafort caused way, way more harm than your average druggie.

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  8. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Guarneri:

    The blood thirsty are out early today.

    So sez foolish Drew who stands at pep rallies for his dear leader, wearing a red hat made in china, and screams “lock her up” about a woman who has been thru, literally, decades of investigations which have found no wrong doing.

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  9. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    20,000 jobs created in February.
    So much winning…I’m tired of all this winning…

  10. Kit says:

    @Kathy:

    What I mean is drug users, small-time thieves, and the like ought to get shorter sentences, and giving Manafort three life terms to serve consecutively doesn’t help the former one bit.

    Unfortunately, the judge’s logic would seem to be very comfortable with drug users and small-time thieves suffering relatively harsher sentencing:

    Ellis said the sentence he imposed was more in line with others who had been convicted of similar crimes.

    And:

    Judge Ellis… cited other tax cases that had resulted in minimal prison time. “The government cannot sweep away the history of all these other sentences”

    All that history, Kathy! His hands were tied, you see, despite the following:

    The judge later told Manafort: “I was surprised that I did not hear you express regret for engaging in wrong conduct.”

    Yes, surprising. Most surprising. And while bearing in mind all that history, imagine this:

    Ellis told a packed courtroom in Alexandria, Va. that anyone who didn’t think the punishment was tough enough should “go and spend a day, a week in jail or in the federal penitentiary. He has to spend 47 months.”

    Are you ashamed yet for thinking that sentencing for drug use should ever be compared with the stealing of millions? And if you (of all people!) refuse to be swayed by history, then here’s a hint at the deeper reasons for why some people should be judged more leniently:

    The judge noted that he must consider the entirety of Manafort’s life when issuing a sentence, saying letters show Manafort has been “a good friend” and a “generous person”

    Case closed.

  11. Kit says:

    Paul Manafort dodges a bullet on sentencing… That would have made for a good title had the post been about Michael Cohen.

  12. KM says:

    @Kathy:

    Overall I’m not vindictive, and I regard the value of punishment only in relation to bringing about a desired outcome. from that perspective, the slap on the wrist Manafort got doesn’t trouble me.

    Kindly explain this. What “desired outcomes” were you expecting that Manafort’s sentence wasn’t troubling? The judge clearly seems to think Manafort was being treated “unfairly” in some vague, unspecified, personally-biased way and thus was overly sympathetic in sentencing to compensate as so to not “ruin his life”. He was a “good friend” letters to the court claim – yeah, so was Bundy and he was a first-time offender too! What outcome was desired here other then letting all of America know that as long as you’re a “good person” (rich, white, male, connected) silly things like standards shouldn’t apply?

    Everyone has no criminal record until they are convicted. That’s a duh-moment right there. What this judge is essentially saying is that as long as you don’t get caught for long enough, you’re free to go crime till your heart’s content and get a slap on the wrist. Does anyone REALLY think he’s going to serve all that time? No reduced sentence later “for good behavior” or time shaved off? He’ll do a couple of months *max* and we all know it. Ellis has reaffirmed to the nation that white-collar crime absolutely pays with little to no blowback. You can sell out your nation, lie about it and just have to spend a few months in a comfy cell not having to worry about gen pop.

    Manafort had more to worry about from the Russians deciding to give him an umbrella-special then the US court system handing out proper justice. How f’cked up is that?

  13. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Kathy: Well, I get it, if nobody else does. What we do in a hundred, maybe a thousand “routine” cases is more important than what is done in one case involving one guy, even if he did steal a lot of money. And a harsher sentence on him probably won’t make those other thousand cases go any differently.

    I believe Manafort to be a traitor to the country, someone who did deals with foreign powers to get his candidate elected, and to put money in his own pocket. But that hasn’t been proved to the level of evidence in a courtroom, so he doesn’t deserve to be sentenced based on my belief.

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  14. Michael Reynolds says:

    Four years is not a joke. And he’s got more coming. I don’t need the man to drawn and quartered. He’s got four years to do inside and he owes Oleg Deripaska twenty million. Basta.

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  15. al Ameda says:

    Completely understandable sentencing by Ellis:
    (1) Although Manafort was, de facto, a Russian asset, it was just white collar crime.
    (2) Manafort was not caught dealing weed or opioids.
    (3) He was not Black or Latino.

  16. Kathy says:

    @KM:

    Kindly explain this. What “desired outcomes” were you expecting that Manafort’s sentence wasn’t troubling?

    Specifically criminal punishment is supposed to achieve deterrence, retribution, and, where appropriate, restitution.

    I don’t think any sentence imposed on Manafort will be much of a deterrent, rather it will be an incentive to hire more expensive lawyers, or to flee abroad.

    I believe the certainty of punishment, even when mild, is a better deterrent than harsh sentences. So I’d support fully prosecuting these kinds of crimes more often, and to give authorities the ability to do so.

    Retribution may have failed. I’ll tell you I don’t think the sentence he got was fair, only that I’m not overly troubled by it. But I have a hard time watching people suffer, even if they deserve it. And the truth is most people will forget about Manafort before he finishes his sentence.

    I’ve heard little concerning restitution.

  17. Jen says:

    Judge Ellis hasn’t liked this case from the start. I get the feeling that he personally has no issue with anything that Manafort has done (“blameless life”–I mean come ON). This is the judge, IIRC, who refused to allow the prosecution to use the word “oligarch,” even when it was not only relevant but accurately descriptive.

    I hope Judge Berman Jackson rules closer to reality, and that the sentences are served consecutively. It is beyond high time that we start treating white collar criminals as the plague on society that they really are.

  18. mattbernius says:

    Judge Ellis has, historically, been a strong critic of mandatory minimums for drug and gun sentences. Mandatory minimums are the reason he CAN’T give a convicted drug dealer a break like he gave Manafort.

    The issue with Manafort’s case is less that he got these “breaks,” than that others are not getting the same breaks.

    (This isn’t to say I support this light a sentence.)

  19. Michael Reynolds says:

    I jumped bail and went underground for two decades over a possible 3-5 of which I’d probably not have done more than 18 months. Granted, I wouldn’t have been at Club Fed, but Paul Manafort is not doing the happy dance thinking he’ll only have to wipe his ass three feet away from a ‘roomie’ for four years.

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  20. Kit says:

    @Kathy:

    I don’t think any sentence imposed on Manafort will be much of a deterrent, rather it will be an incentive to hire more expensive lawyers, or to flee abroad.

    Had the judge said that his habitual leniency could not be applied because Manafort had lied to federal prosecutors, then he might have deterred others, and in the very short term.

  21. Jen says:

    @Michael Reynolds: This is true, and worth keeping in mind. I will admit to a fit of pique when I heard of the light sentence, but for someone like Manafort who has lived rather a soft existence for decades, even a few years would carry significant psychological weight.

    It is still discouraging to even feel that Judge Ellis allowed his personal feelings to color his sentencing recommendations, and I am particularly bothered by the suggestion that some in the legal community are making that he went light specifically because he is anticipating Judge Jackson will not. How is that a thing? Shouldn’t they be paying attention to the ball in their (literal) court, and not thinking about what “might” happen elsewhere?

  22. James Pearce says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I jumped bail and went underground for two decades over a possible 3-5 of which I’d probably not have done more than 18 months.

    Oh god….not this again….

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  23. drj says:

    @James Pearce:

    Oh god….not this again….

    This is pretty rich coming from a tedious bore like yourself.

    Maybe you can add something substantive and interesting before complaining about other commenters?

    Hint: contrarian ≠ interesting.

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  24. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Jen:
    No one comes out of prison the person they went in. It breaks a lot of people. The people it doesn’t break, it distorts, hardens, humbles. It’s the complete loss of control that gets to people.
    Every beat of your day is determined by the system. At any time of day or night your cell can be invaded by guards, they can search your stuff, they can take what they don’t want you to have, they can tell you at 3 AM to bend over and grab your ankles for a cavity search.

    Statistically a man Manafort’s age has an average 15 years left to enjoy life. He just lost a quarter of his remaining life. And that’s before we get the other sentence, which may well run consecutively. When Manafort emerges he’ll be old, bankrupt, unemployable and psychologically traumatized.

  25. James Pearce says:

    @drj:

    This is pretty rich coming from a tedious bore like yourself.

    You’re just going to have to accept that I have a different opinion on this, and so many other things. I’m not trying to be “interesting,” especially to the 4 to 6 people who chime in only to lob some lame-ass personal dig my way. I’m trying to be true to myself.

    Is this the first time you’ve seen Michael explain his criminal justice expertise by boasting that he was a “fugitive” for two decades?

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  26. KM says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    Oh I’m aware it’s going to a huge problem for him. Even the cushiest prison is still a prison and *sucks* by design.

    But the line of thinking that we should just settle for “well, at least the rich guy’s going to be uncomfortable and have to live like the rest of the prisoners” as a comfort in the face of this nonsense is somewhat galling. It’s like saying “well, at least the drunk driver broke his leg when he miraculous survived the wreck that killed everyone else in the car”. Yeah the bastard’s going to suffer with the injury but not nearly enough for what he did. A minor inconvenience in the grand scheme of things, temporary pain and suffering instead of the full weight of justice he deserved. It’s cold comfort to note a broken leg was inflicted as it was the *least* of what should happen. Karma denied tends to stick in one’s craw, after all.

  27. Michael Reynolds says:

    @James Pearce:
    I can spice things up for you. I could tell you about the high-speed chase through the streets of Crockett, California with me in a Toyota Corolla and two Angels on choppers. Or the time I conned TAP into getting me off Terceira minutes ahead of a paper-hanging beef. Or how about a cocaine-fueled post-caper romp with two women in a suite at The Mark in SF? I aim to entertain.

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  28. James Pearce says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    No one comes out of prison the person they went in.

    <—I rest my case.

    "I was almost a con. Let me tell you how a con thinks."

    For what it's worth, Robert Downey Jr, who actually went to prison, once said: ““I have a really interesting political point of view, and it’s not always something I say too loud at dinner tables here, but you can’t go from a $2,000-a-night suite at La Mirage to a penitentiary and really understand it and come out a liberal. You can’t. I wouldn’t wish that experience on anyone else, but it was very, very, very educational for me and has informed my proclivities and politics every since.”

    Also:

    When Manafort emerges he’ll be old, bankrupt, unemployable and psychologically traumatized.

    This is not what I want the justice system to do to people. But then again, I’m a liberal and not some left-wing asshole.

  29. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @James Pearce:

    I’m trying to be true to myself.

    You should try harder.
    Constantly moving the goalposts of your opinions is not a good indicator of success.

  30. Michael Reynolds says:

    @James Pearce:
    Well, gee, James, Downey had a different experience. One that, as you quote it, entirely supports my statement. Right? So thanks for that.

    Dude. I’m sorry you’ve had a boring life. I haven’t. And on a couple of topics – being a fugitive, being a writer, long term relationships – I know some things that you don’t. I promise I will never try to one-up you in the matter of psychic polling of light rail passengers, and I would never try to outshine you in moving goalposts, that’s all yours.

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  31. the Q says:

    Manafort should be happy his name isn’t Wesley Snipes….I am sure Ellis wouldn’t be so lenient…..

  32. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    The sentence Manafort received has no bearing on the outcome of the Dennison Conspiracy investigation, so I’m not going to waste much thought on it.
    It does trouble me that there are brown-skinned people sitting in jail, on far longer sentences, for selling $20 bags of pot.
    Unfortunately that’s the reality of racial injustice in our supposedly christian nation; the rules are different for old rich white guys, even though Christ was none of those.

  33. James Pearce says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: Thanks, Dad.

    @Michael Reynolds: Downey, who actually went to prison, definitely had a different experience and notice what he said about it: “it’s not always something I say too loud at dinner tables here.”

    Contrast that with your “HEY, EVERYBODY, HAVE YOU HEARD ABOUT THAT TIME I WAS A FUGITIVE FOR 20 YEARS?”

    I haven’t had a boring life. I’ve just had one that’s made me a more decent person apparently.

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  34. James Pearce says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    It does trouble me that there are brown-skinned people sitting in jail, on far longer sentences, for selling $20 bags of pot.

    I’ve seen a lot of this and I have to say….what seems troubling to most people making this argument is that Paul Manafort didn’t get railroaded.

  35. wr says:

    @Jen: “I will admit to a fit of pique when I heard of the light sentence, but for someone like Manafort who has lived rather a soft existence for decades, even a few years would carry significant psychological weight.

    Is that our standard for justice? “Yeah, that black kid we caught with a gram of coke — he comes from a shitty neighborhood and his dad used to beat him up and he was under constant threat of gang violence, so 4 years isn’t going to carry enough psychological weight, so he’d better to 40-life. But the rich white guy has lived in mansions with servants and had private planes and expensive cars and everything he could ever want, and even though he bought it all with the fruits of his crimes, it’s going to be a big shock for him to go to jail, so a short sentence is probably enough.”

    That’s the system we have now, and it seems to be one you’re endorsing. I don’t know why.

  36. wr says:

    @Michael Reynolds: “When Manafort emerges he’ll be old, bankrupt, unemployable and psychologically traumatized.”

    I’m all for prison reform. I say let’s run our system like Denmark’s.

    But as long as we have the shitty, cruel, brutal, evil system we have, then rich people don’t get a pass from punishment because it’s “hard” for them.

    Maybe if we punished white collar criminals as harshly as we do poor people, there might be some impetus to actually change the system.

  37. mikey says:

    @wr: Paul Manafort: the Brock Turner of tax fraud.

  38. Lounsbury says:

    @Jen: News at 11, human beings are not robots nor do they act like abstract ideal creatures.

  39. SenyorDave says:

    @James Pearce: I’ve seen a lot of this and I have to say….what seems troubling to most people making this argument is that Paul Manafort didn’t get railroaded.

    Do you really believe that is the argument here? That is 100% strawman bullshit. The problem a lot of people have with Manafort’s sentence is that he received a 47 month sentence when sentencing guidelines called for 19 – 24 years. He was unrepentant and continued to lie when he was supposedly cooperating. He spent decades committing his crimes, and the judge talks about him as if he were some type of model citizen.

  40. Jen says:

    @wr: No no no no no.

    I am NOT endorsing that system. Please see my first comment before judging ME.

    It is beyond high time that we start treating white collar criminals as the plague on society that they really are.

    All I was getting at is that although I was frankly pissed at the light sentence, even that won’t be a walk in the park for Manafort.

  41. James Pearce says:

    @SenyorDave:

    The problem a lot of people have with Manafort’s sentence is that he received a 47 month sentence when sentencing guidelines called for 19 – 24 years.

    Yeah, like I said….People are mad he got 4 years instead of a completely inappropriate and absurd 19-24.

  42. Gustopher says:

    @Kathy:

    I don’t think any sentence imposed on Manafort will be much of a deterrent, rather it will be an incentive to hire more expensive lawyers, or to flee abroad.

    It depends on what you want to deter. Our sentencing is way above the norms worldwide for crimes poor people do. The only way we’re going to get real reform is if the wealthy classes also have skin in the game.

    It’s like the draft — when consequences are shared more broadly across society, things change. It’s why the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have lasted so much longer than Vietnam. We may not like them, but we will never feel the cost.

  43. Monala says:

    @wr:

    Maybe if we punished white collar criminals as harshly as we do poor people, there might be some impetus to actually change the system.

    Ditto, amen.

  44. James Pearce says:

    Maybe if we punished white collar criminals as harshly as we do poor people

    You just described China, that paragon of virtue and justice.

  45. wr says:

    @James Pearce: Wait, so you think we shouldn’t punish white collar criminals because that’s what evil China does?

    I know you have to disagree with everything anyone says, but surely even you can see how stupid this one makes you.

    By the way, some of what China does in harshly punishing corrupt officials who have caused great harm to people is, in my opinion, a good thing. The trouble with that country, however, is that because of its entirely top-down power structure it’s impossible to tell from here if those being punished are actually the guilty parties or simply people who are politically inconvenient. But surely even you can imagine a justice system that enforces the law against rich people that is at least as transparent as the one we have now.

    Or maybe I’m being too generous towards you again. Maybe you really think that white people shouldn’t be put in jail because of their innate superiority…

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  46. Roger says:

    When I was a 1L I argued to my crim law prof that if we’re really serious about the goals of our criminal justice system we should be handing out more time to white collar criminals and less time with more non-prison alternatives to poor non-violent offenders. I think she thought my naïveté was cute. Years later, having spent time as a prosecutor and on the other side of the table providing support (but not representing) a family member who is now doing LWOP, I still think I was right.

    But more time doesn’t mean forever. Four years is a long time. It doesn’t seem long because (1) you’re not the one who has to do it and (2) we’ve gotten used to the idea of insanely long prison sentences that do nothing but ruin lives and let politicians run on their record of being tough on crime. The real outrage isn’t Manafort’s four years, it’s the routinely long sentences handed down every day that nobody ever hears about.

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  47. Teve says:

    @Roger: I stopped watching Law & order because it creeped me out when the *good guy* prosecutor would say “no I’m not taking 10 years for that burglary. 15 or no deal!” And I would think, do you understand how long 10 fucking years is? You’re going to get all pissed when traffic in midtown holds you up for an hour.

  48. James Pearce says:

    @wr:

    Wait, so you think we shouldn’t punish white collar criminals because that’s what evil China does?

    No, I think intersectional “social justice” BS makes you stupid.

    Sentences for crimes should be based on the crime itself. Full stop.

    If we punish white collar crimes more harshly, it does not follow that “poor people” (who sometimes commit white collar crimes themselves) will get leniency.

    How about this? Forget about being “harsh.” Be just instead.

  49. Raoul says:

    DM: How do you explain the discrepancy between this sentence and former Congressman Jefferson who is an African-American (I think it was 13 years for 100k bribe).

  50. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @James Pearce: “Be just instead.”

    “The Judge does not make the law. It is people that make the law. Therefore if a law is unjust, and if the Judge judges according to the law, that is justice, even if it is not just.”
    ― Alan Paton, Cry, the Beloved Country

    We keep meeting the enemy. And he keeps being us. It never ends–as it was in the beginning, is now, and shall be forever. We need better people, and to get better people, we’ll need to be better people ourselves.

    Don’t see this happenin’ in my lifetime.

  51. An Interested Party says:

    My my my, this has been a fun thread…

    He’s lived an otherwise blameless life…

    Hmm…he worked on behalf of Ferdinand Marcos, Jonas Savimbi, Mobutu Sese Seko, and Viktor Yanukovych…does this strike you as “an otherwise blameless life”? No? Me neither…

    The blood thirsty are out early today.

    I’m sure this idiot thinks that Hillary Clinton should spend more time in jail than Manafort…

    I’m trying to be true to myself.

    Ahh…so being true to yourself means you trash someone else for the same exact flaw that you have…

    Meanwhile, here’s a reminder about how “justice” works in this country

    For context on Manafort’s 47 months in prison, my client yesterday was offered 36-72 months in prison for stealing $100 worth of quarters from a residential laundry room.

    Do you notice something different from Manafort about so many of the people mentioned in that tweet’s thread? What could it be…

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  52. Eric Florack says:

    Reminder:

    Paul Manafort is going to jail for crimes he committed while he was working for Hillary Clinton, not Donald Trump. These are crimes that nobody seemed to have any interest in pursuing summer criminal justice standpoint until such time as he was working for Trump. What do you suppose that says?

  53. wr says:

    @James Pearce: “No, I think intersectional “social justice” BS makes you stupid.”

    And in English this means?

  54. An Interested Party says:

    Paul Manafort is going to jail for crimes he committed while he was working for Hillary Clinton, not Donald Trump.

    What bullshit lie is this?