March 8, 2019 / 1:33 AM / 7 months ago

Manafort's luxurious life nowhere in sight at sentencing

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - There was no bespoke suit, no ostrich-skin jacket and no titanium watch.

FILE PHOTO: Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort departs from U.S. District Court in Washington, U.S., February 28, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo

There was just a 69-year-old man in a green prison jumpsuit stamped with “Alexandria Inmate.”

Paul Manafort, former campaign chairman for President Donald Trump, rolled into a Virginia courthouse in a wheelchair for sentencing on Thursday after being found guilty of bank and tax fraud in a trial last year that turned him into a model of Washington lobbyist excess.

The federal judge in the case, T.S. Ellis, sentenced Manafort to 47 months in prison. The judge noted that Manafort’s time already served would be subtracted from the sentence. Manafort has been jailed since June 2018.

Prosecutors had cited federal sentencing guidelines that called for 19-1/2 to 24 years in prison, while Manafort pleaded for the judge’s mercy.

Like Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, Manafort was a hired gun who entered Trump’s orbit, did his bidding, drew the attention of prosecutors and came out shattered.

“To say I have been humiliated and ashamed would be a gross understatement,” Manafort told the judge on Thursday, his formerly brown hair noticeably grayer than months ago. He said his life was “professionally and financially in shambles.”

That came from a man who “believed the law did not apply to him,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Uzo Asonye told the jury at the beginning of Manafort’s trial last year.

Before joining the Trump campaign in 2016, Manafort had built a reputation as a Washington power player. He lobbied on behalf of foreign leaders – some of whom were accused of running oppressive governments - and advised Republican presidential candidates, such as George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole.

Deep in debt as his revenue from work for the government of Ukraine began to dry up, Manafort connected with the turbulent Trump campaign, even though such a step was bound to attract scrutiny of his international lobbying and jet-set lifestyle.

During the fraud trial that followed in Virginia, prosecutors detailed his over-the-top lifestyle: multiple homes, luxury cars and watches, Persian rugs and more than $1 million spent on custom suits and coats from high-end menswear retailers, including a $15,000 jacket made from ostrich skin.

Although Manafort’s 47-month sentence was lower than many legal analysts expected, he will be sentenced next week in a second fraud case, in Washington.

A plea deal he struck to avoid a trial in that case was tossed out after the federal judge determined Manafort had lied to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office and the FBI about matters material to Mueller’s probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Trump says Manafort’s crimes, which involve work he provided on behalf of the government of Ukraine, had nothing to do with him or allegations that his campaign conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 election. Trump denies any collusion took place and Russia rejects U.S. intelligence findings it interfered in the election.

But after a jury convicted Manafort in August, Trump called the investigation a “disgrace” and called Manafort a “good man,” leaving open the possibility of a pardon.

Reporting by James Oliphant; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Peter Cooney

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