A Dutch attorney who lied to US federal agents investigating Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman for now-US President Donald Trump, was on Tuesday sentenced to 30 days in prison in the first punishment handed down in the special counsel’s Russia investigation.
He was also ordered to pay a US$20,000 fine.
Alex van der Zwaan’s sentence could set a guidepost for what other defendants charged with lying in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation might receive when their cases are resolved. Among them are a former White House national security adviser and a Trump campaign foreign policy aide.
Van der Zwaan, 33, had faced up to six months in prison under federal sentencing guidelines, and his attorneys had pushed for him to pay a fine and leave the country.
However, US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, citing the need to deter others from lying in an investigation of international importance, said incarceration was necessary.
Being able to “write a check and walk away,” would not fit the seriousness of the crime or send the right message, Jackson said.
The criminal case against Van der Zwaan is not directly related to Russian election interference, the main focus of Mueller’s probe.
However, it has revealed new details about the government’s case against Manafort and opened a window into the intersecting universes of international law, foreign consulting work and politics.
The case has also exposed connections between senior Trump campaign aides, including Rick Gates, and Russia.
Just last week, the government disclosed that Van der Zwaan and Gates spoke during the 2016 presidential campaign with a man Gates had previously described as having ties to the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate, its military intelligence agency.
Gates is now cooperating with Mueller.
During the hearing on Tuesday, Van der Zwaan made only a brief statement, telling Jackson: “Your honor, what I did was wrong. I apologize to the court. I apologize to my wife.”
Van der Zwaan, who was fired last year by high-powered international law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, admitted in February to lying to federal agents about his contacts with Gates and the person with ties to Russian intelligence.
Van der Zwaan had previously grown close to Manafort, Gates and the person, Konstantin Kilimnik, during his work on a 2012 report commissioned by the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice.
The report, written by the law firm, was about the corruption trial of former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
Kilimnik, who was born in Ukraine while it was a Soviet republic, has previously denied having any relation to Russian intelligence services.
Although prosecutors did not take a position on whether Van der Zwaan should be locked up, they stressed that he had lied “repeatedly” to investigators.
“This is not an isolated instance of bad judgment or criminal conduct,” prosecutor Andrew Weissmann said.
Van der Zwaan’s attorneys argued that he had suffered enough already.
His life has been destroyed by his “terrible decision” to lie to federal authorities, they said.
The defense pushed Jackson to allow Van der Zwaan to return to London, where he lives with his wife, who is going through a difficult pregnancy.
“He has been here well over four months without a home, without his wife and without his family,” attorney William Schwartz said. “He is literally in limbo.”
Schwartz said that his client had made the effort to return to the US to “correct the record” after he lied to the special counsel’s office, although prosecutors took issue with the characterization, saying that Van der Zwaan was under a grand jury subpoena at the time.
Jackson said she recognized that Van der Zwaan has been away from his family for months, but the defense’s attempts to paint him as a tragic figure did not ring true.
“This is not something that happened to him. He did not suffer unavoidable circumstances of tragedy. This is something he did,” she said.
In addition to the prison time and fine, Jackson imposed two months of supervised released. She allowed him to voluntarily surrender to prison authorities.
The sentencing came just hours after another development in the special counsel’s investigation.
In a court filing late on Monday, prosecutors revealed that US Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had in August last year explicitly authorized the special counsel to investigate allegations that Manafort colluded with the Russian government.
Manafort has challenged Mueller’s authority and asked a judge to dismiss charges against him, including acting as an unregistered foreign agent and conspiring to launder tens of millions of dollars he received from his Ukrainian political consulting.
He said Mueller overstepped his bounds by charging him for conduct that occurred years before the 2016 presidential election.
However, in their new filing, prosecutors revealed that Rosenstein — who appointed Mueller — specifically authorized the investigation of any crimes related to payments Manafort received from the Ukrainian government during the tenure of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych.
The description largely captures the charges against him.
Rosenstein also empowered Mueller to investigate allegations Manafort “committed a crime or crimes by colluding with Russian government officials” to interfere with the presidential election.
FRENCH AID: Paris has sent a navy ship and aircraft from Reunion Island with some pollution control equipment, but rough seas are spreading the oil spill The operator of a Japanese bulk carrier which ran aground off Mauritius in the Indian Ocean yesterday apologized for a major oil spill, which officials and environmentalists say is creating an ecological disaster, as police prepared to board the ship. The MV Wakashio, operated by Mitsui OSK Lines, struck the reef on Mauritius’ southeast coast on July 25. “We apologize profusely and deeply for the great trouble we have caused,” Mitsui OSK Lines executive vice president Akihiko Ono said at a news conference in Tokyo. The company would “do everything in their power to resolve the issue,” he said. At least 1,000 tonnes of
They stand as eyesores to most passers-by and potential public health risks to authorities, decaying buildings wrapped in tangles of exposed wire, studded with protruding leaky plastic pipes, vegetation billowing from cracks and terraces where particulates from polluted air have accumulated over time. With skyscrapers and ultramodern developments on every side, some of these “nail houses” are also sitting on land worth millions of dollars in Shenzhen’s inferno of a property market, where new-unit and second-hand home prices rival London. In battles over land and development, the nail house phenomenon has become widespread throughout China over the past two decades, with owners
An Italian alpine resort on Friday remained on high alert over fears that a vast chunk of a glacier on the slopes of the Mont Blanc massif could plummet in high temperatures. “No one gets through! No cars, bikes or pedestrians,” was the message at a checkpoint where an automatic barrier and two guards blocked the small road snaking up into a lush valley below the Planpincieux glacier, near the town of Courmayeur and the Italian-French border. The blockade has largely been greeted with contempt by the locals, one of whom said: “It’s a joke.” The huge ice block measuring around 500,000 cubic
SHOW OF SOLIDARITY: The publisher’s ‘Apple Daily’ newspaper has had to raise the number of copies printed from 70,000 to 550,000 to meet a huge surge in demand They have occupied Hong Kong’s central business district, marched by the hundreds of thousands through the territory’s streets and endured tear gas and pepper spray in pitched battles with riot police. Hong Kong’s pro-democracy supporters are now wielding a new protest weapon: their stock-market trading accounts. To show support for Jimmy Lai (黎智英), the publisher and outspoken government critic who was on Monday arrested under the territory’s new national security legislation, Hong Kongers have been piling into shares of his media company Next Digital. The result: a more than 1,100 percent surge in two days that propelled the stock to a seven-year