WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was sentenced Wednesday to 3½ years in federal prison, a week after he received a 47-month sentence in a separate case.
Soon after he left court to return to his cell in Alexandria, Va., where he has been held, prosecutors in New York announced a 16-count grand jury indictment charging him with mortgage fraud, falsifying business records and conspiracy.
Trump would not be able to pardon Manafort, 69, on the state charges — which are separate from the federal cases for which Manafort was just sentenced.
In court Wednesday, Judge Amy Berman Jackson criticized Manafort and his defense attorneys for repeatedly casting his hard fall from power as collateral damage from the special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.
“This defendant is not public enemy number one, but he’s also not a victim either,” Jackson said. “There’s no question this defendant knew better, and he knew exactly what he was doing.”
Outside the courthouse, Manafort attorney Kevin Downing called the sentence “callous, hostile and totally unnecessary.”
He emphasized that the judge, however, had acknowledged that there was “no evidence of any collusion with Russia in this case.”
Jackson had called the defense’s repeated claims about the lack of collusionwith the Russian government “a non-sequitur.”
The questionofwhether anyone in Trump’s campaign “conspired or colluded with” the Russian government “was not presented in this case,” she said.
She added that the assertion may not even be “accurate” because special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is not over, and she found that Manafort lied to investigators about issues at the heart of the inquiry.
“It’s not appropriate to say investigators haven’t found anything, when you lied to the investigators,” she said.
In contrast to Judge T.S. Ellis III, who when sentencing Manafort to 47 months in prison last week in Alexandria said Manafort lived an “otherwise blameless life,” Jackson spent nearly 40 minutes describing Manafort as a persistent liar who undermined democracy out of personal greed.
His crimes were “not just a failure to comply with some pesky regulations,” she said, but “lying to the American people and the American Congress. … It is hard to overstate the number of lies and amount of money involved.”
Manafort’s motivation, she added, was “not to support a family, but to sustain a lifestyle that was ostentatiously opulent and extravagantly lavish — more houses than a family can enjoy, more suits than one man can wear.”
But she agreed with Ellis that sentencing guidelines in the case were excessive, and said his age, the millions he forfeited, and the fact that his finances and career are “in tatters” minimized the chances that he would offend again.
Manafort will receive credit for the nine months he has served. He faced as many as 10 more years in prison Wednesday after pleading guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States by illegally lobbying in Ukraine and hiding the proceeds overseas, then encouraging witnesses to lie on his behalf.
He apologized to “all those negatively affected by my actions,” acknowledging that he did not express such regret when he was sentenced in Alexandria for bank and tax fraud.
“Let me be very clear: I accept responsibility for the actions that led me to be here today, and I want to apologize for all I contributed to the impacts on people and institutions. While I cannot change the past, I can work to change the future,” Manafort said from a wheelchair, turning to face Jackson. “I want to say to you now, I am sorry for what I have done and for all of the activities that have gotten us here today.”
He added that nine months in solitary confinement after being jailed on charges of witness tampering gave him “new self-awareness.”
Manafort had been held in protective custody, away from other inmates.
Prosecutors questioned whether Manafort was capable of change, depicting him as a mastermind of a conspiracy in which he was paid $50 million over more than a decade by a Russian-backed politician and party in Ukraine, and by Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“His work was corrosive to faith in the political process, both in the United States and abroad,” prosecutor Andrew Weissmann said. “He served to undermine, not promote, American ideals of honesty, transparency and playing by the rules.”
Manafort’s attempt to cover up his crimes by asking witnesses to lie for him, Weissmann said, “is not reflective of somebody who has learned a harsh lesson. It is not a reflection of remorse. It is evidence that something is wrong with sort of a moral compass.”
Manafort led a sophisticated scheme “to avoid a duty all Americans have” to pay their taxes, Weissmann said, hiding wealth in 30 foreign bank accounts containing more than $50 million for his work for the government of Ukraine and Deripaska.
Downing said his client is genuinely remorseful and has endured a “media frenzy” that few other defendants in the country have faced. Downing said all sides have sought to spin Manafort’s predicament to their political advantage, adding that “but for a short stint as campaign manager in a presidential election, I don’t think we would be here today. I think the court should consider that, too.”
Jackson dismissed that argument, telling Manafort, “Saying ‘I’m sorry I got caught’ is not an inspiring call for leniency.”
The investigation of Manafort predated Mueller’s appointment in 2017, and it wasn’t the special counsel’s office that made Manafort lie to investigators, she said.
The judge accused Manafort of a pattern of sleight of hand throughout the criminal proceeding against him, including wrongly inflating his assets in a bail hearing and exaggerating the harshness of his conditions in jail.
She suggested that he had sought to outmaneuver prosecutors by agreeing to plead guilty to conspiracy and cooperate with them, then backtracking and lying to the special counsel’s office and a grand jury.
“Was he spinning the facts beforehand to get a good deal, or was he spinning them afterwards to protect others?” she asked. “We don’t know.”
The second sentencing follows a legal saga that began in October 2017 when Manafort and his longtime employee and campaign deputy Rick Gates became the first defendants publicly charged in the Mueller investigation. Gates later pleaded guilty to conspiracy and lying to the FBI. He agreed to cooperate with the inquiry and has yet to be sentenced.
Manafort faced two federal trials because he exercised his option to keep the tax and bank fraud charges in the state where he lived.
At a trial in Virginia in August, a jury found him guilty on eight counts and deadlocked on 10 others. But Manafort admitted guilt on all charges in his D.C. plea.
The prospect that Trump could pardon Manafort has hung over the proceedings for many months. Late last year, Trump said he “wouldn’t take it off the table.” More recently, he said, “I don’t even discuss it.”
Asked again after Wednesday’s sentencing, Trump said: “I have not even given it a thought, as of this moment. It’s not something that’s right now on my mind.” He added, “I feel very badly for Paul Manafort,” saying “certainly, on a human basis, it’s a very sad thing.”
In New York, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said in a statement announcing the indictment: “No one is beyond the law in New York. Following an investigation commenced by our office in March 2017, a Manhattan grand jury has charged Mr. Manafort with state criminal violations which strike at the heart of New York’s sovereign interests, including the integrity of our residential mortgage market.”
New York’s attorney general’s office had looked into whether it could file state-level charges against Manafort but faced a possible roadblock because of the state’s double jeopardy law. That statute goes beyond most other states by preventing state-level charges that mirror federal counts that have been resolved — and prevents prosecutors from pursuing state-level charges when a person has been pardoned for the same federal crimes.
Still, Manhattan prosecutors contend that their case is safe because mortgage fraud and falsifying business records are state, not federal crimes.
While a spokesman for Manafort said he had no comment, some legal experts predicted that Manafort would challenge the new charges on the grounds of double jeopardy.
Information for this article was contributed by Spencer S. Hsu, Rachel Weiner, Ann E. Marimow, Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky of The Washington Post; by Sharon LaFraniere of The New York Times; and by Eric Tucker, Chad Day, Michael R. Sisak and Michael Balsa-mo of The Associated Press.
Print Headline: Manafort gets 3½ more years in fraud case