Paul Manafort, Donald Trump's former campaign chief, has been sentenced to nearly four years behind bars for tax and bank fraud. The crimes were uncovered during special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.
Paul Manafort, US President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, was sentenced on Thursday to 47 months in prison. The ruling is a blow to the administration and the harshest jail sentence handed to anyone in the president's inner circle.
The crimes were uncovered during special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia's role in the 2016 election.
Manafort, a veteran Republican political consultant, was found guilty of five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud and one count of failing to disclose foreign bank accounts. The former Trump aide will have to pay a $50,000 (€44,000) fine and more than $24 million in restitution.
But Manafort's legal problems aren't over yet. He still faces sentencing in a second case in Washington next week, where he pleaded guilty to two charges of conspiracy and witness tampering. The maximum penalty is 10 years.
'Humiliated and ashamed'
Prosecutors had requested 19 to 24 years in prison for the 69-year-old Manafort's crimes, accusing him of hiding millions of dollars he received as a consultant for Ukraine's former pro-Russia government. After the ouster of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014, prosecutors say Manafort lied to banks to secure loans and maintain his opulent lifestyle.
But US District Judge T.S. Ellis III said that prosecutors' sentencing request was excessive and would create "an unwarranted disparity" with other cases. Ellis sought to make clear that Manafort was "not before the court for any allegations that he, or anyone at his direction, colluded with the Russian government to influence the 2016 election."
Manafort did not testify during his trial, but he spoke after his sentence was delivered. The former campaign manager did not express any remorse, but said the trial has been difficult for him and his family.
"To say I have been humiliated and ashamed would be a gross understatement," he told the court, sitting in a wheelchair due to complications from gout. He described his life as "professionally and financially in shambles."
Manafort served as Trump's 2016 campaign chairman for two months, including the week of the Republican National Convention where then-candidate Trump became the party's nominee.
Investigators began looking into Manafort when it was discovered that he had attended a meeting in June 2016 in Trump Tower in New York with Russians who had promised "dirt" on Trump's political rival, Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Since Manafort's sentencing, Trump has called him a "good man" and tweeted that the charges against him had to do with the Manafort's business years before he was associated with the 2016 campaign.
In November, Trump said he had not ruled out the possibility of granting a presidential pardon to his former aide.
Manafort is the only one of 34 individuals and three companies charged by Mueller to have gone to trial.
Other Trump operatives currently under investigation include former campaign aides Rick Gates, who testified against Manafort, and George Papadopoulos, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, Michael Cohen, Trump's personal lawyer for 10 years and longtime adviser Roger Stone.
jcg/cmk (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)