For the media jury in the court-of-public opinion, Paul Manafort should be given life in prison for his crimes. They want 25 years – the maximum requested by the federal prosecutors in the Virginia Federal
District Court. They would have preferred to have Manafort hanged, drawn and quartered, but that punishment lost popularity in the Middle Ages and our Constitution forbids “cruel and unusual” punishment.
If you consider only the crimes for which Manafort was convicted – 8 of the 18 charges leveled by the federal prosecutors – he might have even gotten a lesser sentence. The federal guideline of 19 to 25 years is to give the court what might be thought of an appropriate sentence. The problem with that is that it is almost impossible to find anyone who has been convicted of similar crimes getting anything near the recommendation of the prosecutors.
Judge T.S. Ellis, who sentenced Manafort, noted that similar cases generally result in a couple of years or less – and some resulted in no jail time at all – just probation. In addition to the 47 months, Manafort will have to pay millions of dollars in restitution and serve another three years of probation. That means his actual sentence is closer to seven years.
The extra 20-plus years proposed by the prosecutors might be seen as a Trump penalty – nothing more than punishment for his association with President Trump.
Of course, none of Manafort’s crimes had anything to do with the presidential campaign or the over-hyped Russian collusion theory so dearly embraced by Democrats and the left-wing media. Judge Ellis made that clear at several points in the proceedings.
In the early days of the trial, he admonition prosecution lawyers for trying to tie the case to the investigation being conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. There was no legal linkage and Ellis was not about to allow the government lawyers to create one arbitrarily. Every time government lawyers mention Robert Mueller – or even the title Special Council — Ellis slapped them down.
Too often we see courts – federal and otherwise – bending to politics as the underpinning in their dishing out so-called justice. It was shamefully evident in all those Dixie courts during the 175 years of slavery and segregation.
Before sentencing, Ellis gave a significant hint of his decision. He flat-out called the federal guideline excessive. He applied the normal considerations – first-time conviction, age and health of the defendant and the quality of his life apart from the crimes.
Judge Ellis should be credited for blocking out political considerations and pressures and deciding the sentencing on the basic standards of justice. He shunned the notion of imposing an unusually cruel sentence based on the political fervor of the times in favor of one that is more traditional in our court system. Of course, this did not please the rabble on the left who were clamoring for a judicial lynching.
Manafort will face yet another sentencing in the District of Columbia this month for a different assortment of crimes. Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who will preside in that case is more likely to be influenced by the political swirl surrounding Manafort. In that case, he faces a maximum of 10 years. Judge Jackson has the option of making her sentence concurrent with the Ellis sentence or tack it on as an additional time – essentially giving Manafort up to 14 years behind bars. If not a life sentence for the 70-year-old Manafort, it would be pretty close – especially in view of his deteriorating health.
Yes, Manafort was guilty of serious crimes. They were mostly crimes of personal greed – both in acquiring money illegally and concealing his bounty from the legal process. He deserves to go to jail. Thanks to Judge Ellis, this is a case where the punishment fits the crime. We will soon see how it plays out in Manafort’s final sentencing.
So, there ‘tis.