A Simple, Compound Sentence
Yes, I know that Paul Manafort had a sentencing guideline of 19-24 years and yet was only given four years in prison. And I know that it's a ghastly short sentence given his conviction of a wide swath of critical felonies, some with people at the heart of an attack on the United States. And I know that black people and other minorities get much longer sentences for far lesser crimes, even -- literally -- shoplifting, (Just this week, a black man in Boulder, CO, was detained by eight policemen with guns drawn for suspiciously picking up trash in front of his own home.) And I know that the actions of the judge throughout the trial were described by many lawyers as bizarre and biased towards white collar crime. And that the judge's reasoning for the light sentence ignored a great many larger realities -- including that Manafort was only tried only 18 counts before this judge rather than many more because he had pleaded guilty in his earlier trial, and as part of that plea Robert Mueller agreed to not charge him more.
But -- amid the understand and substantive outrage at the sentence -- I think a few things should get not lost in the reaction. And first among them is that the former campaign manager of Trump was just sentenced to four years in prison. And though four years is very light considering what he could have gotten and what he was convicted of, it's four years. I suspect most people would be distraught to spend four years of their life in prison, especially if you'd lead a life of ease and were 70 years old. And there is still another sentencing ahead, where Manafort is up for 10 years in prison.
Now, it's possible the judge there, Judge Amy Berman Jackson, will give him a light sentence, as well. And maybe the judge will make the sentence to run concurrently. But then, Manafort may get the full 10 years and it may run consecutively. Which means Manafort could conceivably spend 14 years in prison until he is 84 years old
And of course whatever his sentences, he could end up with less time in prison for good behavior. Or get pardoned.
But my sense in all this is that this first judge, Judge Ellis, is known from his actions at the trial and previous actions to be a wild card, and it's unlikely that the Judge Jackson will be the same. And given the general widespread reaction by the legal community at the lightness of this sentence, it seems reasonable to think Manafort won't get off as easily next week. So, in the end, he may well end up with at least a total of 10 years in prison until he's 80 -- or more. This was a very sickeningly light sentence. But Paul Manafort has a terrible future waiting him.
I suspect he will get some years knocked off for good behavior. I suspect too that this will come from this Judge Ellis, and less so from Judge Jackson, especially since she knows that Manafort got off incredibly lightly with his other sentence. But all this is a guess.
Pardoning Manafort though is another matter entirely, and not as cut-and-dried as one might think. To begin with, if Trump does pardon his former campaign manager, it could open the door to obstruction of justice charges leading to his impeachment. And further, if Manafort is pardoned, he would be compelled to testify in Congress openly and honestly. And if he didn't, he would not only have to serve his full time in prison, but could be charged with obstruction of justice.
In the end, I understand the galling outrage at Manafort's light sentence, and share it. But I also understand that that's mainly from almost a sense of vengeance, since the length of the sentence really doesn't change much. Nor do I think it will give comfort to anyone facing their own indictment, since it's pretty well accepted that this speaks far more about Judge Ellis than it does about the Manafort crimes. And ultimately, this is the campaign chairman of the the president of the United States going to prison. For a minimum of four years. Which could be 14 years. Until he's 84 years old.
Paul Manafort may have been relieved that he didn't get 24 years in prison. I can't imagine he's relieved by his future. He was a beaten man in court. In a wheelchair. His hair gray. Facing massive debts. Facing health issues. And facing another sentencing next week.
Anyone who takes pleasure in how light this sentence was compared to what it could have been is missing the larger picture. This was not a Good Day for Paul Manafort.
Leave a Reply.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
Feedspot Badge of Honor