Update 2: In a terse statement delivered outside the courthouse, Manafort's defense lawyers reiterated that "there is absolutely no evidence that Paul Manafort was involved with any collusion with any government official from Russia."
Already, the resistance is furious.
”During the trial, Ellis intervened regularly, and mainly against one side: the prosecution. The judge's interruptions occurred in the presence of the jury and on matters of substance, not courtroom conduct. He disparaged the prosecution's evidence.” https://t.co/MEAq7NyRhV— Tim O'Brien (@TimOBrien) March 8, 2019
Though looking back, that Ellis went easy on Manafort isn't a huge surprise: After all, this is the same judge who pointed out every flaw in the prosecution's case during the trial. At the time, the Washington Post even accused him of "extraordinary bias."
* * *
Update: In a surprise decision that stands as a slap in the face to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Judge Ellis handed Paul Manafort a surprisingly light sentence of 47 months -or just under four years in prison - rejecting federal sentencing guidelines that recommended Manafort face up to 24 years in prison - a sentence that would have effectively condemned him to die in jail.
Manafort was also fined $50,000 (equivalent to a few of Manafort's bespoke suits) and ordered to pay restitution of $25 million.
At this rate, Manafort might be out before Mueller finally wraps up his probe.
Manafort’s sentence may be shorter than how long it takes Mueller to find Russian collusion— zerohedge (@zerohedge) March 8, 2019
Early in the trial, Manafort appeared headed for a stiff sentence despite showing up in court in a wheelchair and green prison jumpsuit. Initially, after a lengthy review of Manafort's charges, Ellis, who presided over Manafort's August trial, said he would reject his lawyers' request for leniency and accused the former Trump campaign executive of not being entirely forthcoming with the court about his finances. Furthermore, he refused to give him credit for accepting responsibility for his crimes, and also rejected his lawyers' argument that the fact that Manafort hadn't been found complicit in Russian collusion detracted from the charges for which he was convicted.
When it came time for their statement, prosecutors told the judge Manafort offered little meaningful help during his 50 hours of meetings with investigators, and that the main reason he spent so much time with investigators was because he had lied.
But when it came his turn to speak, Manafort sounded genuinely contrite, telling the judge he felt "humiliated and ashamed" for what he'd done, and that the last two years had been "the most difficult years for my family and I."
"I appreciate the fairness of the trial you conducted," he said. "My life is professionally and financially in shambles."
In the first indication that the sentence would be lighter than many had anticipated, the judge told Manafort and the court that he felt the federal sentencing guidelines were too stiff, and that Manafort had led an "otherwise blameless" life.
Ellis recommended that Manafort - who is reportedly suffering from gout and other unspecified health issues - serve his sentence in a Cumberland, Maryland prison camp. He also credited him with nine months already served.
Here's a play-by-play of the hearing, courtesy of @ShimonPro:
Paul Manafort is in the courtroom.— Shimon Prokupecz (@ShimonPro) March 7, 2019
He is in a wheelchair wearing a green jumpsuit.
Paul Manafort's sentencing hearing has begun before Judge TS Ellis and a packed, silent courtroom of spectators, media, and federal investigators.— Shimon Prokupecz (@ShimonPro) March 7, 2019
Judge tells the courtroom that Manafort is not being sentenced for anything related to the Special Counsel's investigation into Russian interference.— Shimon Prokupecz (@ShimonPro) March 7, 2019
Ellis said "He is not before the court for anything having to do with colluding with the Russian government”
Couple of legal arguments ongoing. Waiting on further updates.— Shimon Prokupecz (@ShimonPro) March 7, 2019
Judge has denied one of Manafort's requests for a slightly reduced sentence already, related to how the judge should view the foreign banking and tax offenses.— Shimon Prokupecz (@ShimonPro) March 7, 2019
They are now discussing the severity of his mortgage fraud.
Judge is digging into the legal teams' arguments over whether Manafort sought a $5.5 million loan and admitted lying to the bank to get the money - with the intention to cause harm to the bank.— Shimon Prokupecz (@ShimonPro) March 7, 2019
Judge is now considering Manafort's acceptance of responsibility.
We are in a 15 minute recess. Update to come.— Shimon Prokupecz (@ShimonPro) March 7, 2019
Before the break.— Shimon Prokupecz (@ShimonPro) March 7, 2019
Judge TS Ellis decided that Mana not get credit today for accepting responsibility for his crimes. Even so, Ellis noted that Manafort spent 50 hours speaking to Special Counsel prosecutors.
Manafort is wearing a green prison uniform that says ALEXANDRIA INMATE in white letters on the back.— Shimon Prokupecz (@ShimonPro) March 7, 2019
Manafort is still a rich man, prosecutor Uzo Asonye noted in a discussion with the judge about possible fines and restitution Manafort could pay. He said Manafort still has at least $4 million in assets and properties.— Shimon Prokupecz (@ShimonPro) March 7, 2019
Manafort also never provided extensive financial information to the Virginia federal court so probation officers could calculate his full worth, Asonye said.— Shimon Prokupecz (@ShimonPro) March 7, 2019
Prosecutors say Manafort never gave meaningful help. That the reason he met with the Mueller team for 50 hours was because he lied.— Shimon Prokupecz (@ShimonPro) March 7, 2019
The lawyers have now reached the meat of Paul Manafort's sentencing hearing after working out several legal questions with the judge.— Shimon Prokupecz (@ShimonPro) March 7, 2019
Defense attorneys are now speaking— Shimon Prokupecz (@ShimonPro) March 7, 2019
Paul Manafort will speak to the judge before sentencing, his attorney told the court.— Shimon Prokupecz (@ShimonPro) March 7, 2019
"I appreciate the fairness" of this court during the proceedings. "You bent over backwards" to give me a fair trial Manafort told the judge. "Thank you for a fair trial," Manafort said.— Shimon Prokupecz (@ShimonPro) March 7, 2019
"I know it is my conduct that brought me here."
Manafort spoke for about 4 minutes and told the judge "I am ready for your decision."— Shimon Prokupecz (@ShimonPro) March 7, 2019
Manafort spoke briefly about how prayer and faith have helped get him through this time.— Shimon Prokupecz (@ShimonPro) March 7, 2019
"I ask you to be compassionate," said Manafort.
He spoke from a wheelchair
We are waiting for the judge to return from recess.— Shimon Prokupecz (@ShimonPro) March 7, 2019
We are back in session— Shimon Prokupecz (@ShimonPro) March 7, 2019
Judge TS Ellis said he believed a sentence of 19-24 years as was recommended would be "excessive" for Manafort.— Shimon Prokupecz (@ShimonPro) March 7, 2019
Judge TS Ellis before giving Manafort his sentence noted he "lived an otherwise blameless life," was a good friend and generous person to others. That doesn't erase his crimes however Ellis said.— Shimon Prokupecz (@ShimonPro) March 7, 2019
Judge TS Ellis has sentenced Paul Manafort to almost 4 years in prison.— Shimon Prokupecz (@ShimonPro) March 7, 2019
Judge tells Manafort "life is making choices Mr. Manafort, and living with the choices you make," Judge T.S. Ellis said before he delivered Manafort his sentence.— Shimon Prokupecz (@ShimonPro) March 8, 2019
"You made choices to engage in criminal conduct."
After the hearing ended, Manafort was wheeled out of the room. He looked directly at his wife.— Shimon Prokupecz (@ShimonPro) March 8, 2019
Manafort's eyes appeared bloodshot.
Reporters have been staking out the courthouse all afternoon, and Manafort, or at least his legal team, is expected to give a statement to the press after the sentencing:
Of course, as we noted below, Manafort isn't out of the woods just yet...he will face a second sentencing in a Washington DC court next week, where Judge Amy Berman Jackson is presiding. In addition to his initial charges, Manafort is expected to answer to allegations that he lied to Mueller about his contacts with a former associate from his consulting work whom investigators purportedly believe was a Russian spy.
Let’s keep in mind that Manafort has to face Judge Amy Berman Jackson next week. She’s a very different judge than Judge Ellis— Julia Manchester (@JuliaManch) March 8, 2019
* * *
Paul Manafort's day of reckoning has finally arrived.
Months after Special Counsel Robert Mueller that Manafort had violated his plea agreement with federal prosecutors by allegedly lying about a promise to share campaign info with a purported Russian operative. For his crimes, Mueller insisted that Manafort be sentenced as soon as possible, and after a brief delay, US District Judge T.S. Ellis is expected to hand down Manafort's sentence on Thursday, possibly delivering what could be an effective life sentence for the former Trump campaign manager. Though Mueller hasn't recommended a specific sentence, federal guidelines recommend a prison term of between 19.5 and 24 years for Manafort.
The charges for which Manafort will be sentenced on Thursday include eight counts of bank fraud and other crimes for which he was convicted after an August trial, Reuters reported.
Defense lawyers have asked the judge to sentence Manafort to beetween 4-1/4 and 5-1/4 years in prison, and are expected to tell the judge that their client is remorseful and that the sentencing guidelines cited by prosecutors call for a prison term disproportionate to the offenses committed.
"The Special Counsel’s attempt to vilify Mr. Manafort as a lifelong and irredeemable felon is beyond the pale and grossly overstates the facts before this court," Manafort's lawyers wrote in a sentencing memo.
As one Twitter commentator pointed out, should he receive anything close to the maximum sentence, 69-year-old Manafort would very likely die in prison.
Manafort will die in prison if Trump doesn’t pardon him.— Allan (@Allancook) March 6, 2019
The sentencing hearing is set for 3:30 pm ET. Next week, Manafort will face another sentencing in a separate case in Washington on two conspiracy charges to which he pleaded guilty in September as part of his plea with Mueller. He faces a statutory minimum of 10 years in that case, which US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson could potentially stack on top of whatever Mueller receives on Thursday.
Though he cooperated with prosecutors, Manafort has reportedly been holding out hope for a presidential pardon, which President Trump hasn't ruled out.