US President Donald Trump’s former campaign chief Paul Manafort was on Thursday sentenced to nearly four years in prison by a federal judge for tax crimes and bank fraud in the highest profile case yet stemming from US Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
US District Thomas Selby Ellis III immediately came under fire from Democratic lawmakers for imposing what they what they said is a relatively light sentence on the 69-year-old Republican political consultant and lobbyist.
Prosecutors from Mueller’s office had argued for a stiff prison term for Manafort, the first target of Mueller’s probe into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election to be convicted in a criminal trial.
Ellis said that while Manafort had committed “very serious crimes,” he had previously led an “otherwise blameless life” and the advisory sentencing guidelines calling for 19 to 24 years behind bars were “excessive” and disproportionate to sentences for similar offenses.
“The government cannot sweep away the history of all these previous sentences,” Ellis said.
Manafort was in August last year convicted by a jury of five counts of filing false income tax returns, two counts of bank fraud and one count of failing to report a foreign bank account.
He is one of a half-dozen former Trump associates and senior aides charged by Mueller.
The charges against Manafort were not connected to his role in the Trump campaign, which he headed for two months in 2016, but were related to lucrative consulting work he did for Russian-backed Ukrainian politicians from 2004 to 2014.
Prosecutors said that Manafort used offshore bank accounts to hide more than US$55 million he earned working for Ukrainian clients.
The money was used to support a lavish lifestyle, which included purchases of luxury homes and cars, antique rugs and expensive clothes, including an US$18,500 python jacket.
His conviction was a stunning downfall for a man who also worked on the White House bids of former US presidents Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, as well as Bob Dole.
Speaking from a wheelchair and wearing a green prison jumpsuit with the words “Alexandria Inmate” on the back, Manafort told the court that his “life, professionally and personally, is in a shambles.”
“I feel the pain and shame,” said Manafort, who the defense said suffers from gout, a form of arthritis.
“To say that I feel humiliated and ashamed would be a gross understatement,” he said.
Ellis said that he did not hear Manafort express regret or remorse, but the sentencing guidelines were “way out of whack.”
“I think what I’ve done is punitive,” Ellis said.
He sentenced Manafort to a total of 47 months in prison for the eight counts and credited him with nine months of time served.
He was ordered to pay US$24 million in restitution and a US$50,000 fine.
He still faces sentencing in a money laundering and witness tampering case in Washington next week, where the maximum penalty is 10 years and the judge has appeared more sympathetic to prosecutors.
French authorities yesterday said that they would close a Paris mosque as part of a clampdown on radical Islam that has yielded over a dozen arrests following the beheading of a teacher who had shown his pupils a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed. The mosque in a densely populated suburb northeast of Paris had disseminated a video on its Facebook page days before Friday’s gruesome murder, railing against teacher Samuel Paty’s choice of material for a class discussion on freedom of expression, a source close to the investigation said. The French Ministry of the Interior said the mosque in Pantin, which has
LONGSTANDING NEUTRALITY: The US request came as it vied for influence in Southeast Asia with China, but Indonesia has never let foreign militaries operate there Indonesia this year rejected a proposal by the US to allow its P-8 Poseidon maritime surveillance planes to land and refuel there, four senior Indonesian officials familiar with the matter have said. US officials made multiple “high-level” approaches in July and August to Indonesia’s defense and foreign ministers before Indonesian President Joko Widodo rebuffed the request, the officials said. Representatives for Indonesia’s president and defense minister, the US Department of State’s Office of Press Relations and the US embassy in Jakarta did not respond to requests for comment. Representatives for the US Department of Defense and Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi
COVID-19 UNDER CONTROL: The two prime ministers agreed to ease entry bans, and allow short-term business visits and reopen flights between Vietnam and Japan Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, in his first overseas summit since taking office last month, yesterday agreed with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc to step up defense and security cooperation in the face of China’s expanding influence in the region. In talks in Hanoi, Suga and Phuc set up a basic agreement allowing Japan to export defense equipment and technology to Vietnam. Japan has been pursuing such agreements to bolster ties with Southeast Asian nations and sustain its own defense industry. Suga said that his four-day trip to Vietnam and Indonesia would be key to pursuing the “free and open Indo-Pacific” vision
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday night said that he has no problem with being held responsible for the many killings under his crackdown on drugs, and that he is ready to face charges that could land him in jail, but not charges of crimes against humanity. Duterte’s televised remarks were among his clearest acknowledgement of the prospects that he could face a deluge of criminal charges for the bloody campaign he launched after taking office in the middle of 2016. Police have reported that at least 5,856 drug suspects have been killed in raids and more than 256,000 others arrested since