Manafort's attorneys argue for leniency in Virginia sentence

Manafort's attorneys argue for leniency in Virginia sentence
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Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortGates sentencing set for next month Yovanovitch says John Solomon's columns were used to push false allegations Trump bemoans 'double standard' in Stone conviction MORE’s defense attorneys are urging the federal judge presiding over his criminal case in Virginia to send the former Trump campaign chairman to prison for significantly less time than the 19.5 to 24 years recommended under the sentencing guidelines.

In a new filing Friday, Manafort’s attorneys said the range “is clearly disproportionate” to the criminal conduct Manafort was found guilty of by a jury in a federal district court in northern Virginia over the summer.

Manafort's attorneys said in the filing that Manafort chose to go to trial on the charges in Virginia after  special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSpeier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump Gowdy: I '100 percent' still believe public congressional hearings are 'a circus' Comey: Mueller 'didn't succeed in his mission because there was inadequate transparency' MORE declined to extend a reasonable plea offer. 

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Manafort, 69, was convicted of five counts of filing false tax returns, two counts of bank fraud and one count of failing to report foreign bank and financial accounts.

“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,” his attorneys said.

In the filing, the defense asked Ellis to consider Manafort’s “humble beginnings” as well as letters from family and friends attesting to his selflessness and generosity despite the negative press reports.  

“There are many others who support Mr. Manafort and hope that his current situation will end soon; however, they were not comfortable publicly expressing their thoughts about and experiences with Mr. Manafort out of fear that they will be subjected to harassment and ridicule,” Manafort’s attorneys said in the 41-page sentencing memo. 

“In fact, Mr. Manafort himself has expressly asked that some individuals not include a letter of support out of concern for the potential impact a public filing may have on their personal and/or professional lives.”  

They also asked Ellis to consider Manafort’s age and health, the significant time he's served in solitary confinement and the fact that he's agreed to forfeit substantial assets accumulated over his working life.

The government has not taken a position on how much time specifically Manafort should get.

But in a memo to the judge last month, Mueller said the government agreed with the guidelines range mapped out in the Pre-sentence Investigation Report.

Ellis had originally scheduled Manafort to be sentenced on Feb. 8, but cancelled the hearing until the judge presiding over Manafort’s criminal case in D.C. resolved a dispute over whether Manafort had violated his plea agreement.

Manafort pled guilty to two charges of conspiracy and agreed to fully cooperate with Mueller’s investigation as part of the agreement that allowed him to avoid a second criminal trial last fall.

In return, Mueller had promised to recommend lighter sentences for Manafort.

But in November Mueller said Manafort had blown the deal by lying to the special counsel’s office, a claim Manafort’s attorneys denied. 

Judge Amy Berman Jackson ultimately found that Manafort had in fact intentionally lied to the special counsel’s office, the FBI and a grand jury about a payment from a company to the law firm, his interactions and communications with Russian associate Konstantin Kilimnik, and about material subject to another Justice Department investigation.

In a status report Friday, Manafort’s attorneys said if Ellis decides to consider Jackson’s finding in issuing his sentence he should first look at all the hearing transcripts and submissions in their unredacted form, as well as new evidence Mueller provided Jackson in a sealed filing this week.  

A redacted version revealed Manafort’s associate Richard Gates had reached out to the special counsel’s office after Jackson’s ruling on Feb 13 with new information.

Though the specifics were blacked out, the filing said Mueller wanted to bring to the court’s attention additional evidence concerning “one prong” of Manafort’s interactions with Kilimnick.  

But Mueller claimed in the filing the new information shouldn’t impact Jackson’s ruling. In an order Friday, Jackson agreed.

She said the court appreciates the clarification of the record and said the information does not alter the court's determination. 

Ellis had rescheduled Manafort to be sentenced on his conviction in the federal court in Virginia on March 8, but moved that hearing up by a day earlier this week.

Manafort is now scheduled to sentenced on Thursday, March 7 at 3:30 p.m. No explanation was provided for the change.

Manafort is scheduled to be sentenced in D.C. on March 13. The two charges of conspiracy he's pled guilty to carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. His attorneys have also asked Jackson for a sentence that’s significantly less than the maximum in that case.