ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was sentenced Thursday to nearly four years in prison for tax and bank fraud related to his work as an adviser to Ukrainian politicians, a significant break from sentencing guidelines that called for a 20-year prison term.
Manafort, sitting in a wheelchair as he dealt with complications from gout, showed no visible reaction Thursday as he heard the 47-month sentence. He was convicted in August in the Eastern District of Virginia.
The sentence caps the only jury trial stemming from indictments from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. The case was not related to Manafort's role in Donald Trump's presidential campaign.
Before Judge T.S. Ellis III imposed the sentence, Manafort told him "I feel humiliated and ashamed would be a gross understatement." But he offered no explicit apology, something Ellis noted before issuing his sentence.
Manafort's lawyers argued that their client had engaged in what amounted to a routine tax-evasion case, and cited numerous past sentences in which defendants had hidden millions from the Internal Revenue Service and served less than a year in prison.
Prosecutors said Manafort's conduct was egregious, but Ellis ultimately agreed more with defense attorneys. "These guidelines are quite high," Ellis said.
The judge noted that he must consider the entirety of Manafort's life when issuing a sentence, noting that Manafort has been "a good friend" and a "generous person" but that "can't erase the criminal activity." Manafort's tax crimes, the judge said, were "a theft of money from everyone who pays taxes."
But the judge expressed some sympathy for Manafort, a 69-year-old GOP consultant who worked on the presidential campaigns of Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
"He's lived an otherwise blameless life," Ellis said. The judge noted that Manafort has no past criminal history and "earned the admiration of a number of people" who wrote letters to the court supporting him.
"The last two years have been the most difficult years for my family and I," Manafort told the judge.
He asked the judge "for compassion," adding, "I know it is my conduct that has brought me here."
Speaking from his chair, Manafort thanked the judge for how he had conducted the trial.
"I appreciate the fairness of the trial you conducted," he said. "My life is professionally and financially in shambles."
Manafort said the "media frenzy" surrounding the case had taken a toll on him but 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 drew strength from the "outpouring of support" he had received.
A jury last year convicted Manafort on eight counts, concluding that he hid from the IRS millions of dollars he earned from his work in Ukraine.
At the outset of Thursday's sentencing hearing, Ellis addressed the larger special counsel investigation, saying Manafort was not convicted "for anything to do with Russian colluding in the presidential election."
But the judge also rejected Manafort's attorneys' claims that the lack of any such evidence undermined the case, saying he had considered that issue at the beginning of the case. "I concluded that it was legitimate" for the special counsel to charge Manafort with financial crimes, Ellis said.
Sentencing guidelines in the case had called for Manafort to serve between 19½ and 24 years in prison.
The first skirmish in the sentencing hearing came when Manafort's attorneys argued with federal prosecutors over whether he deserved any sentence reduction for "acceptance of responsibility."
Manafort's attorneys noted that he spent 50 hours in proffer sessions with the special counsel as part of a plea agreement in the District of Columbia, where Manafort pleaded guilty in a related case connected to illegal lobbying.
But prosecutor Greg Andres argued that those details weren't relevant in the Virginia matter because Manafort chose to fight the Virginia case and because a federal judge in the District of Columbia found that Manafort lied after he had agreed to cooperate with the government.
Most of what Manafort told the office of the special counsel "we already knew or was already in documents," Andres said in court.
Prosecutors had also urged Ellis to impose a serious fine on Manafort, saying he still owns two properties with $4 million in equity, and has securities and a life insurance policy worth millions of dollars more.
"He does have significant assets," prosecutor Uzo Asonye said. Asonye said he couldn't give an exact number because Manafort has not given his financial information to probation officers -- which he called "particularly troubling" given the nature of the case.
Manafort defense attorney Richard Westling countered that there is "not evidence he has the ability to pay" a significant fine. He owes up to $24 million in restitution, depending on what losses the banks he defrauded are able to recoup through the sale of his properties.
As for why Manafort hasn't offered financial information, Westling said, "I can only say that is a very difficult process given his incarceration."
During the trial last year, prosecutors put forward exhaustive evidence of how Manafort illegally concealed his work on behalf of political parties in Ukraine that were aligned with Russia and of how he hid more than $55 million in payments from that work in more than 30 overseas bank accounts.
Once his income from Ukraine dried up, their evidence showed, Manafort deceived banks to obtain loans to sustain a lavish lifestyle. At the same time, he worked for the Trump campaign for free, apparently hoping his status as campaign chairman would attract deep-pocketed foreign clients. He was fired from the campaign after five months when the scandal over his hidden income from Ukraine broke in August 2016.
Manafort's lawyers repeatedly implied that the special counsel's office pursued their client with unusual vigor because of his importance to the Russia inquiry. They said his political consulting work for four American presidents, including Trump, spoke to his high ideals.
But prosecutors said Manafort had been under criminal investigation before Mueller was appointed in May 2017, that his fraud scheme lasted a full decade and that he committed new crimes by tampering with witnesses after he was indicted. Those new offenses led a federal judge to revoke his bail and jail him in June.
"The defendant blames everyone from the special counsel's office to his Ukrainian clients for his own criminal choices," prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo.
Next week, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson could add up to 10 years to Manafort's prison time when he is sentenced in Washington. That hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.
Information for this article was contributed by Matthew Barakat and Stephen Braun of The Associated Press; by Sharon LaFraniere of The New York Times; and by Rachel Weiner, Lynh Bui, Justin Jouvenal and Devlin Barrett of The Washington Post.
A Section on 03/08/2019
Print Headline: Manafort sentence 47 months; ‘humiliated,’ he says about tax, bank fraud conviction