PRESIDENT Trump’s former campaign chief Paul Manafort has tonight been sentenced to nearly four years in prison for a string of financial crimes.
The veteran Republican political consultant was found guilty last August of five counts of tax fraud and two counts of bank fraud.
He was also convicted of failing to disclose foreign bank accounts.
His crimes were uncovered during Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s wide-ranging investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 US presidential election.
Manafort, 69, was wheelchair-bound as the sentence was delivered in Alexandria, Virginia tonight.
He was sentenced to 47 months – well below federal sentencing guidelines that called for 19-and-a-half to 24 years in prison.
But US District Judge T.S. Ellis said the sentencing guidelines were excessive and would create “an unwarranted disparity” with other cases.
Ellis also noted during the hearing that Manafort “is not before the court for any allegations that he, or anyone at his direction, colluded with the Russian government to influence the 2016 election.”
Manafort asked Ellis for mercy and thanked him for conducting a fair trial.
He did not express remorse for his actions but talked about how the case has been difficult for him and his family.
Manafort, who opted not to testify during his trial, told the court that “to say I have been humiliated and ashamed would be a gross understatement.”
He described his life as “professionally and financially in shambles.”
Manafort, with noticeably greyer hair than just months ago, was brought into the courtroom in a wheelchair holding a cane.
He wore a green prison jumpsuit emblazoned with the words “Alexandria inmate” on the back – a far cry from his usual sharp suits.
Manafort was convicted after prosecutors accused him of hiding from the US government millions of dollars he earned as a consultant for Ukraine’s former pro-Russia government.
After Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted, prosecutors said Manafort lied to banks to secure loans and maintain an opulent lifestyle with luxurious homes, designer suits and even a $15,000 ostrich-skin jacket.
Manafort faces sentencing in a separate case next Wednesday in Washington on two conspiracy charges to which he pleaded guilty last September – for which he faces 10 years.
Manafort is the only one of the 34 people and three companies charged by Mueller to have gone to trial.
Several others including former campaign aides Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen have pleaded guilty, while longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone has pleaded not guilty.
Trump, who has called Mueller’s investigation a politically motivated “witch hunt,” has not ruled out granting a presidential pardon to Manafort, saying in November that “I wouldnt take it off the table.”
Mueller is preparing to submit to US Attorney General William Barr a report on his investigation into whether Trump’s campaign conspired with Russia and whether Trump has unlawfully sought to obstruct the probe.
Trump has denied collusion and obstruction and Russia has denied election interference.
The crimes for which Manafort was convicted did not directly relate to the 2016 election.
More to follow…
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