Paul Manafort sentence: Why did judge throw prosecutor’s guidelines out the window?

Paul Manafort is going to prison amid a barrage of criticism from people who say President Trump’s former campaign chairman got off easy.  A judge sentenced Manafort to 47 months behind bars for fraud and tax evasion not related to the Trump campaign. His sentence is far less than the 19 to 24 years prosecutors recommended and even less than what Manafort’s own attorneys asked for.

“I think it is stunning,” CBS News legal analyst Rikki Klieman told “CBS This Morning.” “I think that it’s one thing to depart down from guidelines, the guidelines being 19 and a half to 24 years, but it’s another thing to basically throw the guidelines out the window, which is what happened here.”

For the first time in this case, Manafort spoke in court Thursday, but he did not apologize or express remorse. Judge T. S. Ellis III was surprised at Manafort’s lack of regret but then shocked the courtroom when he handed him a prison sentence that was a fraction of what was expected.

“The prosecutors must have been close to devastated, having tried cases in my own life from both sides of this. You expect, unfortunately, in the system of justice in America that white-collar defendants do get do get less time than people of color even for the same crime,” Klieman said.

According to Klieman, the judge was against this trial from the very beginning and made it clear he was going to conduct the trial the way he saw fit, even reprimanding prosecutors in front of the jury numerous times.

“He made a decision that as he once said, he is Caesar in his Rome, that he was going to do it his way,” she said.

Next week Manafort will be sentenced in another case in Washington, where the judge will need to decide whether he can serve both sentences at the same time or if he will have to serve them consecutively.

“You’re dealing with a different judge, and by the way, very different charges,” Klieman said. “In D.C. you’re dealing with conspiracy against the United States and conspiracy to obstruct justice. Five years each, a maximum of 10. The guidelines bring you to 10. The real question for D.C. Judge [Amy Berman] Jackson is does she give him the full 10 consecutive or concurrent. And this is a judge that has had a lot of experience with Paul Manafort in D.C., you’re dealing with the fact that she vitiated his plea of guilty and bail.”

Particularly stunning to many was the way Judge Ellis characterized Manafort as living an otherwise blameless life.

“That was a rather remarkable comment I think, to say the least,” Klieman said. “It’s one thing to look at his age, his health, the fact that he did not have any prior record. It is another thing to see someone engage in a life of crime for at least 10 years and call it unblemished.”

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