Paul Manafort Faces Up to 10 Years in Conspiracy Cases

WASHINGTON — Paul Manafort, the president’s former campaign chairman, who was sentenced last week to 47 months in prison, faces the prospect of even more time behind bars when a federal judge in the District of Columbia sentences him on Wednesday for conspiracy.

Closing out the special counsel’s highest-profile prosecution, Judge Amy Berman Jackson of Federal District Court in Washington will sentence Mr. Manafort, 69, on two conspiracy counts that each carry a maximum term of five years. The charges, to which Mr. Manafort pleaded guilty last fall, encompass a host of crimes including money laundering and obstruction of justice.

Judge Jackson will be weighing an unusual set of circumstances. She is expected to consider not only the conspiracy charges, but also the fact that Mr. Manafort lied to prosecutors after he agreed in September to cooperate with their inquiry into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and whether any Trump associates conspired.

The judge has ruled that Mr. Manafort breached his plea agreement by lying, but prosecutors have not publicly disclosed why they consider those lies important, saying they wanted to protect an open investigation. That might make it harder for Judge Jackson, who takes pride in explaining herself in terms that ordinary people can understand, to describe how she arrived at her sentence.

In another oddity, Mr. Manafort’s prosecution was divided into two cases — the one before Judge Jackson, and a related case overseen by Judge T. S. Ellis III of Federal District Court in Alexandria, Va. Last week, Judge Ellis sentenced Mr. Manafort to 47 months in prison for eight felony counts of tax evasion, bank fraud and failure to disclose a foreign bank account.

Judge Ellis’s sentence set off a firestorm of criticism from commentators who complained it was overly lenient for a defendant who had orchestrated a multimillion-dollar fraud over a decade. Much of the legal world considered the sentencing guidelines in the Virginia case, which called for a prison term of 19 to 24 years, far too harsh. But some public defenders and former prosecutors said a 47-month sentence exemplified the sentencing disparities in a criminal justice system that favors wealthy, white-collar criminals.

Because one of the conspiracy counts in Washington stems from the same criminal scheme as the Virginia case, some legal experts say they doubt that Judge Jackson will sentence Mr. Manafort to the maximum term of 10 years to run consecutively with the Virginia prison term. Instead, some predicted, she will most likely allow Mr. Manafort to serve his sentences simultaneously, which would cap his prison term at 10 years.

Hanging over the entire case has been the chance that Mr. Trump could pardon Mr. Manafort. Asked about that possibility, Mr. Trump’s answers have varied. He said late last year that he “wouldn’t take it off the table.” More recently, he said, “I don’t even discuss it.”

Asked about a pardon on Monday, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said, “The president has made his position on that clear, and he’ll make a decision when he is ready.”

State prosecutors in Manhattan are said to be preparing charges against Mr. Manafort to help ensure he will serve prison time even if Mr. Trump pardons him for his federal crimes.

Judge Jackson is comfortable with complex decisions, said Robert P. Trout, a defense lawyer who runs the law firm where she worked for a decade before President Barack Obama appointed her to the bench in 2011. “If anyone can get their head around the complexities and sensibilities of the sentencing considerations in play here, it is Judge Jackson,” Mr. Trout said.

The office of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has not requested a specific sentence in any criminal case it has brought. In the case before Judge Jackson, prosecutors said that Mr. Manafort had “repeatedly and brazenly” violated a host of laws and did not deserve any breaks. Even though sentencing guidelines recommended a prison term of up to 22 years, the maximum sentence is governed by the statutes, not the guidelines, and so is limited to 10 years.

Source: NYT

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