Monday 21 October 2019

Ex-Trump campaign boss Manafort sentenced to 47 months in prison

Manafort was convicted on tax and bank fraud charges last year.

Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, has been sentenced for tax and bank fraud (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, has been sentenced for tax and bank fraud (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

By Matthew Barakat and Stephen Braun, Associated Press

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has been sentenced to nearly four years in prison for tax and bank fraud related to his work advising Ukrainian politicians.

Manafort, sitting in a wheelchair as he deals with complications from gout, showed no visible reaction as he heard the 47-month sentence, a significant break from sentencing guidelines that called for a 20-year prison term.

The sentence caps the only jury trial following indictments stemming from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. It was not related to Manafort’s role in Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Before Judge TS Ellis III imposed the sentence, Manafort told him that “saying I feel humiliated and ashamed would be a gross understatement”.

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Manafort still faces sentencing in a separate case connected to illegal lobbying (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

But he offered no explicit apology, something the judge 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 (IRS) and served less than a year in prison.

Prosecutors said Manafort’s conduct was egregious, but the judge ultimately agreed more with defence lawyers.

“These guidelines are quite high,” Mr Ellis said.

A jury convicted Manafort on eight counts last year, concluding that he hid from the IRS millions of dollars he earned from his work in Ukraine.

Manafort still faces sentencing in the District of Columbia, where he pleaded guilty in a separate case connected to illegal lobbying.

Outside court, Manafort’s lawyer, Kevin Downing, said his client accepted responsibility for his conduct “and there was absolutely no evidence that Mr Manafort was involved in any collusion with the government of Russia”.

Prosecutors left the courthouse without making any comment.

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A courtroom sketch showing Paul Manafort during his sentencing hearing (Dana Verkouteren via AP)

Though Manafort has not faced charges related to collusion, he has been seen as one of the most pivotal figures in the Mueller investigation.

Prosecutors, for instance, have scrutinised his relationship with Konstantin Kilimnik, a business associate US authorities say is tied to Russian intelligence, and have described a furtive meeting the men had in August 2016 as cutting to the heart of the investigation.

After pleading guilty in the DC case, Manafort met with investigators for more than 50 hours as part of a requirement to cooperate with the probe.

But prosecutors reiterated at Thursday’s hearing that they believe Manafort was evasive and untruthful in his testimony to a grand jury.

Manafort was wheeled into the courtroom in a green jumpsuit from the Alexandria jail, where he spent the last several months in solitary confinement.

The jet black hair he bore in 2016 when serving as campaign chairman was gone, replaced by grey.

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Lawyer Kevin Downing following the sentencing of his client, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort (Cliff Owen/AP)

Defence lawyers had argued that Manafort would never have been charged if it were not for Mr Mueller’s probe.

At the outset of the trial, even Mr Ellis agreed with that assessment, suggesting that Manafort was being prosecuted only to pressure him to “sing” against Mr Trump.

Prosecutors said the Manafort investigation preceded Mr Mueller’s appointment.

The jury convicted Manafort on eight felonies related to tax and bank fraud charges for hiding foreign income from his work in Ukraine from the IRS and later inflating his income on bank loan applications.

Prosecutors have said the work in Ukraine was on behalf of politicians who were closely aligned with Russia, though Manafort insisted his work helped those politicians distance themselves from Russia and align with the West.

In arguing for a significant sentence, prosecutor Greg Andres said Manafort still has not accepted responsibility for his misconduct.

“His sentencing positions are replete with blaming others,” Mr Andres said.

Mr Andres also said Manafort still has not provided a full account of his finances for purposes of restitution.

The lack of certainty about Manafort’s finances complicated the judge’s efforts to impose restitution, but Mr Ellis ultimately ordered that Manafort could be required to pay back up to 24 million dollars (£18 million).

In the DC case, Manafort faces up to five years in prison on each of two counts to which he pleaded guilty. The judge will have the option to impose any sentence there concurrent or consecutive to the sentence imposed by Mr Ellis.

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