Paul Manafort Seeks Mercy From D.C. Judge Who’ll Punish Him
(Bloomberg) -- Paul Manafort’s lawyers say President Donald Trump’s onetime campaign chairman has been punished enough for his crimes and pleaded with a federal judge to show him mercy in light of his age and deteriorating health.
“Mr. Manafort has been punished substantially, including the forfeiture of most of his assets,” attorneys for the former international political strategist told U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in a court filing Monday. “A significant additional period of incarceration will likely amount to a life sentence for a first-time offender.”
Manafort, 69, pleaded guilty to two conspiracy counts before Jackson in September, avoiding a second trial only weeks after being found guilty of eight felonies by a federal jury in Alexandria, Virginia. He’ll be sentenced there on March 8 and by Jackson five days later. The conspiracy counts carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
He has been in solitary confinement since Jackson jailed him nine months ago after prosecutors accused him of witness tampering.
“A lengthy jail sentence is not called for in this case and would not further the statutory goals of sentencing," the lawyers said.
They asked the judge to consider a punishment that includes no more prison time. “Courts routinely impose non-custodial sentences in cases involving defendants who suffer from serious medical conditions,” they wrote.
The plea for leniency comes three days after Mueller’s office submitted a 25-page brief accompanied by more than 800 pages of charts and exhibits -- some heavily redacted -- detailing the evidence against Manafort. Most of Manafort’s crimes occurred before he joined Trump’s campaign, but he admitted to financial improprieties while he worked for Trump and witness tampering after he was indicted in October 2017.
“For over a decade, Manafort repeatedly and brazenly violated the law,” Mueller’s prosecutors wrote.
Manafort’s lawyers took issue with that characterization in Monday’s submission, telling Jackson, "this case is not about murder, drug cartels, organized crime, the Madoff Ponzi scheme or the collapse of Enron," references to the multibillion dollar Bernard Madoff investment fraud case in 2008 and to the energy trading corporation that imploded amid a criminal accounting fraud scandal in 2001.
Rather, defense lawyers say, Manafort’s failing was that he made "a substantial amount of income" while working as a political consultant in Ukraine, failed to disclose it to U.S. authorities and attempted to conceal his actions, acts for which he’s "accepted full responsibility by pleading guilty to this conduct."
While Manafort’s cases sprung from Mueller’s mandate to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and potential Trump campaign collusion, he was indicted for conduct that occurred before the longtime political operative worked on the president’s campaign.
He hasn’t formally been accused of conspiring with Russia to meddle in the election, although Mueller claims that during the campaign Manafort passed internal polling data to Konstantin Kilimnik, a translator who prosecutors said was connected with Russia’s intelligence services.
Defense lawyers hammered at the lack of even an allegation of collusion in their brief, mentioning its absence seven times in the 48-page filing. Accompanying the filing were an additional 39 pages of letters from friends, neighbors and family members, including his wife of 40 years, Kathleen, daughter Andrea and brother Dennis.
In papers filed with U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III in Alexandria, Mueller’s team endorsed a report that said under the advisory federal sentencing guidelines, Manafort could should get 19 1/2 to 24 1/2 years. Prosecutors didn’t ask Jackson for a specific sentence.
Jackson must decide whether the sentence she imposes will run consecutively or concurrently with whatever punishment is meted out by Ellis. In their filing, Manafort’s attorneys asked her to make those terms concurrent.
The Alexandria jury convicted Manafort of failing to report to U.S. authorities millions of dollars in income he received consulting for Ukraine’s pro-Russia Party of Regions and its former president Viktor Yanukovych, failure to declare foreign bank accounts, and defrauding banks when his cash flow dried up after Yanukovych was driven from power.
As part of his guilty plea, Manafort admitted to conspiring against the U.S. by laundering money, cheating the U.S. out of taxes, failing to file foreign bank account reports, violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act, and lying to the Justice Department. In the other count, he admitted that he conspired to obstruct justice by tampering with witnesses.
Those were “garden-variety crimes,” the lawyers said, describing his failure to file proper paperwork under FARA as the “more esoteric” crime.
The DC case is U.S. v. Manafort, 17-cr-201, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington). The other case is U.S. v. Manafort, 18-cr-83, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria).
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