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.
The sentence was far less than what was called for under sentencing guidelines
Manafort, sitting in a wheelchair as he deals with complications from gout, had no visible reaction as he heard the 47-month sentence.
While that was the longest sentence to date to come from special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, it could have been much worse for Manafort. Sentencing guidelines called for a 20-year term, effectively a lifetime sentence for the 69-year-old.
US president Donald Trump said he felt “very badly” for Manafort. “I think it’s been a very, very tough time for him,” Mr Trump said.
Judge T.S. Ellis III, discussing character reference letters submitted by Manafort’s friends and family, said the ex-campaign chairman had lived an “otherwise blameless life”.
Manafort has been jailed since June, so he will receive credit for the nine months he has already served. He still faces the possibility of additional time from his sentencing in a separate case in the District of Columbia where he pleaded guilty to charges related to illegal lobbying.
As Judge Ellis imposed the sentence, Manafort told him that “saying I feel humiliated and ashamed would be a gross understatement”.
But he offered no explicit apology, something the judge noted before issuing his sentence.
Manafort steered the election efforts for Mr Trump during crucial months of the 2016 campaign as Russia sought to meddle in the election through hacking of Democratic email accounts. He was among the first Trump associates charged in the Mueller investigation and has been a high-profile defendant.
But the charges against Manafort were unrelated to his work on the campaign or the focus of Mueller’s investigation – whether the Trump campaign co-ordinated with Russians.
A jury last year convicted Manafort on eight counts, finding he hid from the IRS millions of dollars he earned from his work in Ukraine.
Manafort’s lawyers argued their client had engaged in what amounted to a routine tax evasion cas, and cited numerous past sentences in which defendants had hidden millions from the IRS and served less than a year in prison.
Prosecutors said Manafort’s conduct was egregious, but Judge Ellis ultimately agreed more with defence attorneys. “These guidelines are quite high,” he said.
Neither prosecutors nor defence attorneys had requested a particular sentence length in their sentencing memoranda, but prosecutors had urged a “significant” sentence.
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.
Though Manafort hasn’t 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. Manafort met investigators for more than 50 hours as part of a requirement to co-operate with the probe.
But prosecutors reiterated at Thursday’s hearing they believed Manafort was evasive and untruthful in his testimony to a grand jury.