At sentencing in DC case, Paul Manafort tells judge: ‘I am sorry for what I have done’
MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Image(WASHINGTON) — Sentencing was underway Wednesday for Paul Manafort in his District of Columbia case, marking the likely conclusion of the former Trump campaign chairman’s year-and-a-half-long legal battle.
Manafort entered the courtroom Wednesday morning in a wheelchair, wearing a black suit, white shirt and purple tie and purple tie.
After some arguments between defense lawyers and prosecutors, he took the stand and addressed Judge Amy Berman Jackson, referring to what he had told Judge T.S. Ellis at his sentencing in his Virgina case last week.
“In my previous elocution, I told Judge Ellis that I was ashamed at my conduct that brought me into his court, and for that, I said I took responsibility,” Manafort said. “Apparently I was not as clear at saying what was in my heart so for you I say to you now that I am sorry for what I have done.”
Last week, Judge Ellis remarked that he was surprised that Manafort didn’t express such remorse in his statement then.
“Please let my wife and I be together. Please don’t take away any longer than the 47 months,” Manafort said Wednesday, referring to the 47-month sentence he received in the Virginia case.
“She needs me and I need her,” he said. “This case has taken everything from me. Please let my wife and I be together.”
Judge Jackson could sentence him to up to 10 years in prison for crimes related to unregistered foreign lobbying and witness tampering, unrelated to his work on the Trump campaign.
After a break, Jackson said: “This defendant is not public enemy number one but he’s not a victim either.”
She reminded both legal teams that this case was not about Russia or about special counsel Robert Mueller and his prosecutors.
“This sentence will not be an endorsement or an indictment of the mission or the tactics of the office of the special counsel. Nor does it fall to me today to pass judgment on Paul Manafort as a human being. His life is not over and he’s going to have an opportunity to make something out of this.”
Using harsher language, Jackson also said Manafort has not been honest about his conduct, including his contacts with witnesses in his case that led to witness tampering charges against him.
“The sentencing memorandum gave me concern that he hasn’t really accepted responsibility for that offense,” Jackson said. “While he agreed to plead guilty to this count, he’s backed away from the facts.”
The judge said Manafort’s lies raised questions in her mind about his motives.
“Was he spinning the facts beforehand to get a good deal or was he spinning them after to get a good deal?” Jackson asked.
Manafort was sentenced separately by Judge T.S. Ellis in the Eastern District of Virginia to almost four years in prison last week on charges of bank and tax fraud.
Earlier, Jackson began the hearing by emphasizing the counts Manafort is being sentenced for in the D.C. case and underscored that he was not being sentenced for the crimes he was convicted of in Virginia, which carried steeper sentencing penalties.
“He has been sentenced for each of the individual offenses that he was convicted in the Eastern District of Virginia,” Jackson said. “What’s happening today is not and cannot be a review or a revision of a sentence that was handed down in another court.” She said heard arguments over whether Manafort deserves credit for acceptance of responsibility and on whether Manafort should receive an enhancement on his sentencing for the “leadership role” he played.
Manafort’s defense team argued Manafort accepted responsibility and given that is entitled to a reduction in sentence.
“Mr. Manafort has come forward, he’s accepted responsibility by pleading guilty,” Manafort’s attorney Thomas Zehnle told the judge.
“Mr. Manafort committed crimes that subverted our political process and undermined the rule of law,” special counsel’s prosecutor Andrew Weissman responded.
Weissman said Manafort’s upbringing and education could have led him to “lead a life and to be a leading example for this country,” and instead he “chose to take a different path.
“He engaged in crime again and again. He has not learned a harsh lesson. He served to undermine, not promote American ideals,” Weissman said.
Manafort’s financial charges relate to criminal activities that occurred between 2006 and 2015, though the witness tampering charge relates to contacts he made in 2017 after he was indicted.
Prosecutors in the case have said in filings that Manafort’s sentence should reflect the “gravity of his conduct.” The defense team, however, has argued that Manafort should be sentenced to a term of imprisonment significantly below the statutory maximum.
“This case is not about murder, drug cartels, organized crime, the Madoff Ponzi scheme or the collapse of Enron,” Manafort’s legal team argued in a sentencing memo. “Mr. Manafort does not dispute his guilt, but these factors do not warrant a substantial period of imprisonment in this case.”
Manafort’s lawyers also cited his significant health challenges as a consideration for a decreased sentencing.
Judge Amy Berman Jackson also will determine Wednesday whether the sentence she hands down in her courtroom will run concurrently with the sentence Manafort received last week in Virginia.
Manafort’s lead attorney, Kevin Downing, asked Judge Ellis last week whether he could rule that his sentence for Manafort run concurrent to the sentence Manafort is expected to receive in D.C. on Wednesday, but Ellis said he believed that decision would be entirely up to Judge Jackson.
“It’s up to her,” Ellis said referring to Jackson. “But if you find that I’m incorrect, that I have that discretion or that power, you may — and that will be after she completes her sentencing – then you can return.”
Manafort pleaded guilty to the two charges he is being sentenced for on Wednesday as part of a plea deal that required his full cooperation with special counsel investigators. But his sentencing was delayed while legal teams engaged in a lengthy dispute about whether Manafort had lied to FBI agents and breached his plea agreement.
Prosecutors first alleged in November that Manafort had lied about several key topics during his interviews with investigators, including lies about his contacts with Konstantin Kilimnik, a businessman with ties to Russian intelligence, who was charged with witness tampering alongside Manafort.
Manafort’s attorneys maintained that he had not lied.
Jackson ruled in mid-February after two closed-door hearings that Manafort had lied and breached his plea agreement, absolving the special counsel of any obligation to recommend a decreased sentence for Manafort.
The special counsel Wednesday will likely make no recommendation for a lax sentence. During Manafort’s Virginia sentencing, the special counsel argued against Manafort’s receiving credit for acceptance of responsibility or for cooperation with investigators.
“Mr. Manafort vigorously defended himself on the facts and his guilt, and he did not accept responsibility in this courthouse with respect to those crimes,” said special prosecutor Greg Andres last week.
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