Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman has been sentenced to nearly four years in prison for tax and bank fraud, a significant reduction from sentencing guidelines that called for a 20-year term.
Paul Manafort received the surprisingly lenient sentence for crimes uncovered during Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election.
The punishment was even less than the sentence recommended by Manafort’s lawyers of 4.25 to 5.25 years in prison. Prosecutors had called for 19.5 to 24 years, citing federal sentencing guidelines.
During the hearing, US District Judge TS Ellis extolled his “otherwise blameless” life in which he “earned the admiration of a number of people” and engaged in “a lot of good things”, Reuters reports.
Manafort hid millions of dollars from the US government that he earned as a consultant for Ukraine’s former pro-Russia government.
After pro-Kremlin Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s ouster, prosecutors said, Manafort lied to banks to secure loans and maintain an opulent lifestyle with luxurious homes, designer suits and even a $15,000 (£11,500) ostrich-skin jacket.
During the hearing Manafort, brought into the courtroom in a wheelchair because of gout, asked for mercy but expressed no remorse for his actions.
Legal experts expressed surprise over the sentence which was less than half of what people who plead guilty and cooperate with the government typically get in similar cases, according to Mark Allenbaugh, a former attorney with the US Sentencing Commission. “Very shocking,” he said.
“This is a tremendous defeat for the special counsel’s office,” former federal prosecutor David Weinstein said.
The judge also ordered Manafort to pay a fine of $50,000 and restitution of just over $24 million.
The sentence prompted outrage and disbelief in many quarters. Democratic Congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, said: “In our current broken system, “justice” isn’t blind. It’s bought.”