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Ex-Trump campaign chief jailed for fraud

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Paul Manafort

By BBC Online
09th-Mar-2019       
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US President Donald Trump's ex-campaign manager Paul Manafort has been given a 47-month jail sentence for fraud.
He was convicted last year of hiding millions of dollars of income earned by his political consulting in Ukraine.
The charges stem from an inquiry into alleged Russian election meddling in the 2016 US elections.
None of Manafort's charges relate to allegations of collusion with Russia. Mr Trump has always denied the charge, describing the inquiry as a witch hunt. The 47-month sentence is far shorter than what was recommended by US Department of Justice Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Mr Mueller is thought to be finishing up his 22-month investigation, which has dogged the Trump presidency. Manafort, 69, is due to be sentenced in another case next week related to his illegal lobbying. His sentencing marks a spectacular downfall for a Republican political guru who advised four US presidents, including Mr Trump, and foreign leaders.
Manafort - who will receive credit for time served - must also pay $24m (£18m) in restitution and a $50,000 fine. He addressed the court on Thursday evening in Alexandria, Virginia, saying "the last two years have been the most difficult of my life". "To say I am humiliated and ashamed would be a gross understatement," he added, asking the judge to be "compassionate". He described his life as "professionally and financially in shambles". Judge TS Ellis said he was surprised that Manafort did not "express regret for engaging in wrongful conduct". The formerly dapper lobbyist - who entered the court wearing a green prison jumpsuit and in a wheelchair - was impassive as he learned his fate. Judge Ellis said sentencing guidelines cited by prosecutors calling for between 19.5 and 24 years in prison were "excessive" compared to sentences for similar crimes.
"The government cannot sweep away the history of all these previous sentences," he said. "Clearly the guidelines were way out of whack on this."
He added that Manafort had lived an "otherwise blameless" life where he "earned the admiration of a number of people". Many Democrats have reacted to the sentence with disappointment. US Senator Amy Klobuchar, who is running for the Democratic nomination for president, said Manafort had "led far from a 'blameless life'".
Meanwhile, ex-CIA Director John Brennan described it as "an extraordinarily lenient sentence... Paul Manafort has a demonstrated track record of criminal, unethical, unprincipled behaviour." Others have contrasted Manafort's sentence with those convicted of other crimes, arguing that the US legal system is lenient on white collar crime. Paul Manafort getting such little jail time for such serious crimes lays out for the world how it's almost impossible for rich people to go to jail for the same amount of time as someone who is lower income.
He added that he was "not advocating for worse treatment for all", but wished his clients would get the "same treatment as the privileged few". News website USA Today points out that, in the district where Manafort was sentenced, those convicted of fraud are normally jailed for an average of 36 months. Legal experts have also pointed out that Judge Ellis has a history of criticising mandatory minimum sentences - including those for drug and gun crimes - as he believes judges should have more discretion over jail sentences. A jury in Alexandria, Virginia, convicted Manafort last August of five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud, and one count of failing to declare a foreign bank account. The judge, however, declared a mistrial on 10 other fraud-related charges.

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