Hmmm: Manafort gets relatively light second sentence too -- and a new indictment

Before Paul Manafort’s sentence-o-rama tour through the courts last week, he faced a potential for consecutive sentences running into decades in prison. By this afternoon, Manafort appeared to have gotten off lightly not once but twice. Judge Amy Berman Jackson added a 43-month prison term to the 47 months Judge T.S. Ellis handed down, with enough overlap that Manafort faces 81 months in federal prison altogether.

That may not be good news, but it wasn’t as bad as it might have been:

Paul Manafort received a prison sentence totaling 7 1 / 2 years in prison at a hearing in Washington on Wednesday. Judge Amy Berman Jackson added 43 months to the 47-month sentence the former Trump campaign chairman was given last week in federal court in Alexandria, Va. …

Defense attorney Kevin M. Downing said his client is genuinely remorseful and has endured a “media frenzy” that few other defendants in this country have faced. Downing said all sides have sought to spin Manafort’s predicament to their political advantage, adding, that “but for a short stint as campaign manager in a presidential election, I don’t think we would be here today. I think the court should consider that, too.”

Jackson dismissed that argument, telling Manafort, “Saying ‘I’m sorry I got caught’ is not an inspiring call for leniency.”

And yet Jackson wound up being relatively lenient anyway. She spent a significant part of the hearing rebutting the defense’s claim that Manafort was a mere pawn in Robert Mueller’s special-counsel probe, noting that Manafort got convicted of and pled guilty to crimes of his own making. Jackson criticized Manafort for lying to Mueller even after cutting a plea deal, and for lying most of his life to boot. “It is hard to overstate the number of lies and amount of money involved,” Jackson summarized at one point.

And yet, while she could have sentenced Manafort to ten additional years in prison, Jackson only effectively added 34 months to the sentence Ellis imposed last week. In that case, sentencing guidelines suggested that Manafort should get closer to 20 years than just under four, as Ellis assigned. At that time, Ellis sharply criticized the sentencing guidelines as unjust and took a great deal of criticism for the light sentence, and some accused Ellis of exploiting his sentencing authority to lash out at Mueller. Jackson’s sentence, however, should put an end to those criticisms as it also departs sharply from federal sentencing guidelines.

That’s as far as the good news went for Manafort today. Just minutes after his sentencing hearing ended, Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance announced a new indictment for sixteen counts of real-estate fraud and related crimes:

Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, was indicted on 16 counts tied to residential mortgage fraud and conspiracy, according to an indictment unsealed Wednesday.

The 69-year-old longtime GOP operative is accused of falsifying business records to illegally obtain millions of dollars as part of a yearlong mortgage fraud scheme.

“No one is beyond the law in New York,” Vance said in a statement.

Yeah! Who does Manafort think he is … Harvey Weinstein?

Looks like Manafort will have a busy 81 months ahead of him, assuming Vance presses forward with the case. It might just be filed to deter Donald Trump from issuing a pardon to Manafort, which would not affect non-federal crimes. If Manafort will get prosecuted in Manhattan, Trump and his advisers will likely think, there’s not much to be gained by pardoning Manafort or commuting his federal sentence. Since it also looks like Manafort doesn’t have anything damaging on Trump, that incentive has already dissipated.

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