Alexandria (USA) (More Bank) – A former campaign leader of US President Donald Trump, Paul Manafort, was sentenced on Thursday to nearly four years in prison by a federal judge for tax crimes and bank fraud in the United States. most prestigious case ever reported by the special lawyer Robert Mueller Investigation in Russia.
Judge T.S. Democratic lawmakers immediately criticized Lewis for imposing what they described as a relatively light sentence to the 69-year-old Republican consultant and political lobbyist.
Prosecutors at the special advocate's office had pleaded for a stiff prison sentence for Manafort, the first target of the Mueller case investigation to be sentenced to the end of the year. a criminal trial.
Ellis stated that although Manafort committed "very serious crimes", he had previously led an "otherwise impeccable life" and that the guidelines recommending a sentence of 19 to 24 years of imprisonment were "excessive" and disproportionate compared to sentences handed down for similar offenses.
"The government can not sweep the story of all these previous sentences," said the judge.
Manafort was found guilty by a jury in August of five counts of filing false income tax returns, two counts of bank fraud and one count of non-reporting a foreign bank account.
He is one of half a dozen former associates and senior associates of Trump, accused by Mueller, who investigated Russia's interference in the election. of 2016 and a possible collusion with the Trump campaign.
The charges against Manafort were not related to his role in the Trump campaign, which he had been running for two months in 2016, but were linked to the lucrative consulting work he's done for the politicians Ukrainians supported by Russia from 2004 to 2014.
Prosecutors claimed that Manafort had used more than $ 55 million that he had obtained by working for Ukrainians through offshore bank accounts.
The money was used to support a lavish lifestyle including luxury home and car purchases, antique carpets and expensive clothing, including a $ 18,500 python jacket.
His conviction was an incredible loss for a man who also worked on the White House candidacy of Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush and Bob Dole.
Speaking from a wheelchair and wearing a green prison suit with the words "Alexandria Detainee" in the back, Manafort told the court that his "life, professionally and personally, was in a dire situation." disastrous. "
– "Pain and shame" –
"I feel pain and shame," said Manafort, who, according to the defense, suffers from gout.
"To say that I feel humiliated and ashamed would be an understatement," he said.
Ellis J. stated that he had not heard Manafort express his regrets or remorse, but that the sentencing guidelines were "totally out of order".
"I think what I've done is punitive," said Ellis.
He sentenced Manafort to a total of 47 months in prison for the eight counts and credited him with nine months of service.
Manafort was ordered to pay a restitution of $ 24 million and a fine of $ 50,000.
Manafort still risks being convicted in a money-laundering and witness handling case in Washington next week, where the maximum sentence is 10 years and the judge has shown greater sympathy toward him. prosecutors.
– & # 39; accepts responsibility & # 39; –
Defense lawyer Kevin Downing said after his conviction that Manafort "accepts responsibility for his conduct".
"And I think the most important thing, what you saw today is the same as what we said since the first day: there is no evidence that Paul Manafort was involved in any collusion with anybody responsible. government of Russia, "said Downing.
The Democrat Representative of the House of Representatives' Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff described Downing's remarks as Trump's "deliberate appeal for rehabilitation", which denied any collusion with Russia and described the Mueller probe as "a hunt for the political witch ".
"The statement of Paul Manafort's lawyers after an already lenient sentence, which reiterates the president's mantra, that there is no collusion, is not a coincidence," Schiff said. "One injustice must not follow another."
Trump hinted at the possibility of forgiving some of the people charged by Mueller, including Manafort, whom he praised as a "good man" who was treated unfairly.
Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democratic presidential candidate for the 2020 presidency, also denounced the sentence.
"His crimes have taken place over the years and he has led far away from a" blameless life, "Klobuchar said on Twitter." Crimes committed in an office building must be treated with as much seriousness as those committed at the corner of a street. "
During the trial of Manafort, much of the damaging testimony against him was provided by his former MP Rick Gates, who entered into an advocacy agreement with the Special Advocate's Office.
In addition to Manafort and Gates, four other former Trump associates face charges or have pleaded guilty to charges stemming from Mueller's investigation.
Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials and is awaiting the delivery of his sentence.
Trump's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, will begin serving a three-year jail term on May 6 for fraud, tax evasion, illegal contributions to the election campaign and lying in front of Congress.
George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser for the Trump campaign, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and was sentenced to two weeks in prison.
Another Trump advisor, Roger Stone, is awaiting trial.