Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen jailed for three years over hush money payments
Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen has been sentenced to three years in prison for crimes including hush-money payments that US prosecutors say Mr Trump ordered.
US District Judge William H Pauley III said that Cohen (52) deserved a harsh punishment for crimes including tax evasion, lying to Congress and arranging illicit payments to silence women who posed a risk to Mr Trump's presidential campaign.
The judge rejected arguments by Cohen's lawyers that he should be spared jail time because he cooperated in multiple federal investigations involving Mr Trump.
Federal prosecutors in New York charged that Cohen, just before the November 2016 election, paid adult film actress Stormy Daniels $130,000 and helped arrange a $150,000 payment to former Playboy model Karen McDougal so the women would keep quiet about their past relationships with Trump, who is married. Trump denies having the affairs.
Prosecutors have said the payments violated campaign finance laws. Cohen told prosecutors the payments were directed by Trump, implicating the president in a possible campaign finance law violation.
Federal law requires that the contribution of "anything of value" to a campaign must be disclosed, and an individual donation cannot exceed $2,700.
"It was my own weakness and a blind loyalty to this man that led me to choose a path of darkness over light," Cohen told the judge during the sentencing hearing.
"I felt it was my duty to cover up his own dirty deeds," Cohen said, referring to Trump.
Cohen's crimes included evading $1.4m dollars in taxes and misleading Congress about his talks with Russians about a Trump skyscraper project in Moscow.
Mr Pauley said that Cohen "appears to have lost his moral compass" and that the lawyer "should have known better" than to dodge taxes, lie to Congress and violate campaign finance laws.
The judge said Cohen's cooperation with prosecutors "does not wipe the slate clean" of his crimes.
Mr Trump had called for a tough sentence for Cohen, whom he labelled a liar.
After the case, an adviser to Cohen said the former political fixer will "state publicly all he knows" about Mr Trump after special counsel Robert Mueller completes his investigation.
Lanny Davis said that Cohen "continues to tell the truth about Donald Trump's misconduct over the years".
Davis, who was previously a lawyer for Cohen, said he will assist him in testifying before any Congressional committee "interested in the search for truth and the difference between facts and lies".
Cohen has been ordered to hand himself in on March 6 to start his sentence.
Trump has denied any collusion with Russia and has accused Mueller's team of pressuring his former aides to lie about him, his campaign and his business dealings. Russia has denied US allegations of interfering in the election to help Trump.