In what could well be the greatest disconnect in the history of sentencing hearings, Judge T.S. Ellis III noted that Paul Manafort had refused to apologize for “very serious crimes” worth millions but then gave Manafort a fraction of what Special Counsel Robert Mueller had requested. Rather than the 19-24 years requested (and allowed under the guidelines), Manafort received 47 months with nine months cut off for time served. Thus, he will serve just 38 months for eight serious felonies. Manafort will receive three years of supervised release, and pay a $50,000 fine and $24 million in restitution.
Ellis previously raised eyebrows over his controversial comments and veiled criticism of the Special Counsel investigation.
In a new curious statement, Ellis seemed to dismiss the importance of apology or contrition. He told Manafort “I was surprised that I did not hear you express regret. That doesn’t make any difference on the judgment that I am about to make … but I hope you reflect on that.”
Ellis also said that Manafort led “an otherwise blameless life.” It is hard to see who Ellis was referring to unless Manafort has an evil twin. Manafort has long been viewed as a dubious character in D.C. with shady clients and practices.
After acknowledging that Manafort had “been convicted of serious crimes — very serious crimes — by a jury,” Ellis declared the requested sentence to be “excessive.”
Manafort was convicted by a jury in August of eight criminal charges — five counts of filing false tax returns, two counts of bank fraud and one count of failing to report foreign bank accounts. There were premeditated and long-standing criminal acts worth millions. Some kid in Chicago who robs a 7-11 can get 10 years easily, but Manafort can commit felonies for millions and walk after less than 4 years.
Notably, it is not clear whether Manafort will actually pay $24 million in restitution because of banks using forfeited properties to cover his debts. Yet, Ellis refused to order more fines, including the sale of two homes worth $4 million each and millions of other assets.
Manafort will now be sentenced in Washington for crimes in a second case by Judge Amy Berman Jackson. He however will be looking at a maximum of 10 years in that case for conspiracy against the U.S. and conspiracy to obstruct justice by tampering with witnesses in D.C. If that sentence were to run concurrently, he would have come out with less time than many expected even if he receives near the maximum. Nevertheless, Manafort is turning 70 in April so a ten year sentence could still be a practice life sentence given his poor health.