Louisiana residents who have been following the Justice Department's investigation into alleged collusion between the Donald Trump campaign and the Russian government will likely know that the only person brought to trial so far by Special Counsel Robert Mueller is the president's former campaign chief Paul Manafort. Federal guidelines recommended a custodial sentence of between 19 and 24 years for the eight counts Manafort was found guilty of, but a federal judge in Virginia chose to send Manafort to prison for 47 months instead. He also imposed a $50,000 fine and ordered Manafort to make restitution in the amount of $24.8 million.
Before handing down the sentence on March 7, the judge pointed out that none of the crimes Manafort had been found guilty of were connected to election interference or collusion with Russian officials. A jury returned guilty verdicts on five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud and one count of failing to disclose a foreign bank account.
Prosecutors say pure greed motivated Manafort to commit his crimes, and they claim that he used the money to fund an extremely lavish lifestyle. Manafort's purchases are said to have included a $15,000 ostrich jacket and suits costing more than $1 million. The sentencing does not mark the end of Manafort's legal issues. He is scheduled to appear in a District of Columbia federal courtroom in the coming days to be sentenced for two counts of conspiracy that could add 10 years to his sentence.
Trials involving fraud and similar white-collar crimes can be challenging and time-consuming for prosecutors, and they may feel that the amount of work involved merits a severe sentence. When plea negotiations are deadlocked and a breakthrough seems unlikely, criminal defense attorneys could cite cases such as this one to remind prosecutors that juries and judges may not see things the way that they do.
Source: NPR, "Paul Manafort, Former Trump Campaign Chairman, Sentenced To Just Under 4 Years", Miles Parks and Ryan Lucas, March 7, 2019