Former federal prosecutor and CNN legal analyst Elie Honig, as many others did, reacted to Paul Manafort getting a 47-month sentence in the Eastern District of Virginia on Thursday with shock. Honig went so far as to call the sentence an “injustice,” adding that he was “stunned” by the “extraordinary downward departure” okayed by Judge T.S. Ellis III.
Honig said that he actually agreed with Ellis on one thing: that the 19-24.5 years recommended by Special Counsel Robert Mueller was “excessive.” He also noted that Manafort committed non-violent crimes (bank and tax fraud) and did not have a prior criminal history. Nonetheless, Honig could not agree with a 15-year downward departure from the lower end of those guidelines.
He then explained why. Honig said that if law students were looking for a “textbook” on “how to flout the criminal justice system”–for educational purposes, of course–they need look no further than Manafort’s actions.
“If you were to do a textbook for law students ‘How to Flout the Criminal Justice System,’ you couldn’t do any better than to trace exactly what Paul Manafort has done here. Lied to the FBI, lied to Mueller, violated bail, tampered with witnesses, got remanded, showed no remorse at sentencing, did not accept responsibility,” he said. “It’s unbelievable to almost reward that with such a massive downward departure.”
Honig also pointed out that a “low-level, non-violent drug offender” could get more time than this.
“Manafort really got a gift here and it’s really hard to understand what the judge was thinking,” he said.
It is worth mentioning, even if you feel the sentence is too lenient given everything we know about Manafort, that Manafort’s nightmare is far from over. Manafort, nearly 70 years old, will be sentenced on March 13 in Washington, D.C. by Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is very familiar with Manafort’s witness tampering, obstruction, and breach of plea agreement by lying in multiple areas.
In short, what is now just under four years prison time is more than likely going to increase significantly. Additionally, as Law&Crime has pointed out before, even if Manafort has been angling for a pardon all along and gets one, state charges that cannot be pardoned are waiting in the wings in Manhattan.
[Image via CNN screengrab]
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