STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
A federal judge has given Paul Manafort at least a chance not to spend the rest of his life in prison. Manafort is President Trump's former campaign chairman convicted of financial crimes. Prosecutors highlighted the $15,000 ostrich jacket and more than $1 million worth of suits that Manafort owned. He supported his lifestyle with illicit dealings in Ukraine. Federal sentencing guidelines suggested up to 24 years in prison for the defendant, who is 69. Why give him just under four years instead?
NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas was at the courthouse and is in our studios. Good morning.
RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Good morning.
INSKEEP: Well, what was the reasoning by Judge T.S. Ellis?
LUCAS: Well, Ellis made clear in his sentencing that Manafort's crimes are serious. He wanted to spell that out clearly. We're talking about tax fraud, failing to disclose a foreign bank account and bank fraud. The tax fraud, in particular, Ellis said is basically stealing from every American who pays taxes. That's a serious crime.
But Ellis also said that, you know, you take all sorts of factors into consideration when coming up with a sentence - general deterrence, you look at the entirety of a defendant's life. And he said, in Manafort's case, he's a first-time offender. Otherwise, blameless life.
And you also look at sentences in similar cases, and that appeared to be a big factor in Manafort's sentence. As you noted, the guidelines' range was 19 to 24 years. Ellis said that's way out of whack. He landed on a total of 47 months, but he also imposed financial penalties - nearly $25 million in restitution - and...
INSKEEP: That is a lot of ostrich jackets...
LUCAS: ...A $50,000 fine.
INSKEEP: ...I suppose we should say. Manafort himself must have made a case for a shorter sentence?
LUCAS: He did. Manafort was actually wheeled into the courtroom yesterday in a wheelchair. He sat in that wheelchair throughout the entirety of the nearly four-hour proceedings. He was wearing a baggy green prison uniform. And he spoke in what's known as allocution. And he said, you know, the last two years have been the most difficult years that he and his family have ever experienced. He said that he feels humiliation and shame. He knows that he's caused deep, deep pain to his family. And he's spent nine months already in jail.
He said he feels the punishment from these proceedings. It's impacted his health, his professional and financial life. He says that he has had time to reflect while in jail. He wants to turn his notoriety into something positive, and he asked for the court's compassion. But Judge T.S. Ellis did say, right before he imposed his sentence, I didn't hear you say you regret what you did.
LUCAS: I didn't hear you say I'm sorry.
INSKEEP: Nevertheless, the 47-month sentence rather than the 24-year sentence. But is 47 months the entirety of the time that Manafort could possibly spend in prison?
LUCAS: Well, Manafort has a second case. That case is here in Washington, D.C. He pleaded guilty to two conspiracy charges. This is a case that was also brought by special counsel Robert Mueller. Manafort, in D.C, agreed to cooperate with the government. That cooperation deal collapsed after the special counsel's team essentially said that he lied to investigators about a number of things.
The presiding judge in D.C., Judge Amy Berman Jackson, agreed with the government. The maximum sentence that Manafort faces here in D.C. is 10 years. Now, the question that hangs over all of this is whether Judge Jackson here in D.C. is going to make him serve, whatever sentence she gives him, simultaneously or stagger it. So is he going to get another 10 years in addition to what he got in Virginia?
INSKEEP: Any chance of a presidential pardon?
LUCAS: The president has not taken that entirely off the table, but his lawyers say it's not under discussion.
INSKEEP: Ryan, thanks so much.
LUCAS: Thank you.
INSKEEP: That's NPR justice reporter Ryan Lucas.
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