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April 3, 2018

After plea to lying to special counsel, attorney gets 30 days (within-guideline) federal sentence

As reported here via Politico, "Special counsel Robert Mueller obtained the first sentence in his high-profile investigation Tuesday, as a Dutch attorney who admitted to lying to investigators was ordered into federal custody for 30 days." Here is more with an emphasis on sentencing details:

Former Skadden Arps lawyer Alex van der Zwaan, 33, pleaded guilty in February to lying to FBI agents about his contacts with former Trump campaign official Rick Gates and Konstantin Kilimnik, a suspected Russian intelligence operative who worked closely with Gates and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Attorneys for van der Zwaan pleaded with U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson to forgo any prison time, give him a fine and let him return to his London home by August, when his wife is due to give birth. However, the judge said some time in jail was appropriate given van der Zwaan's offense and the fact that he is a lawyer.

“We're not talking about a traffic ticket,” she said. “This was lying to a federal officer in the course of a criminal investigation...This was more than a mistake. This was more than a lapse or a misguided moment."

In addition to the 30-day sentence, Jackson also imposed a $20,000 fine and two months of probation, but she said she would permit van der Zwaan to reclaim his passport and leave the country as soon as his month in custody is completed. It's not immediately clear where or in what type of facility he will serve the 30 days....

Van der Zwaan's defense asked that he be permitted to serve at a Bureau of Prisons center in Allenwood, Pennsylvania. The judge said Tuesday that she would recommend that, but federal policies usually dictate that a sentence of less than six months be served at a halfway house or at the D.C. jail.

One of van der Zwaan's defense attorneys, William Schwartz, argued that leniency was appropriate given the impact of the episode on the Dutch lawyer's family and on his legal career.  He is likely to lose his license as a solicitor in the United Kingdom, Schwartz said.

But Jackson was largely unmoved by those arguments, noting that van der Zwaan came from an upbringing of privilege and lacked any hardship that could have mitigated his actions. Van der Zwaan is married to the daughter of a Ukrainian-Russian energy mogul, German Khan, whom Forbes ranks 138th on its list of billionaires, with a net worth of $9.3 billion.

"This glass was dropped on a very thick carpet, which has cushioned him," the judge said of the defendant. She credited him for supporting himself and his wife in recent years, although she noted that van der Zwaan's father-in-law has provided funds to the couple since the attorney was fired from his job....

The fact that prosecutors are not requiring future cooperation from van der Zwaan suggests that they don't see him as a crucial player in the Trump-Russia saga. Prosecutor Andrew Weissmann said the defendant's reason for lying remains murky. "To be candid, we don't know what was motivating the defendant," Weissmann said. "We count on people to tell us the truth. We count on people to turn over documents that are responsive."

Defense attorneys said he lied to Mueller's team because he feared being fired if Skadden found out he had recorded work-related conversations without permission, including at least one with former Obama White House Counsel Greg Craig, a Skadden partner who oversaw the Tymoshenko report. Van der Zwaan was ultimately fired by the firm late last year, after his inaccurate statements to the Mueller team.

Weissmann said that concern about the consequences at Skadden could have been part of the explanation, but there was "reason to doubt that is simply the sole motive." Mueller's team offered no specific recommendation to Jackson on an appropriate sentence in the case. Weissmann said that was the special counsel office's policy, which he also followed as a federal prosecutor in Brooklyn.

Van der Zwaan spoke to the court only briefly during the sentencing hearing at the federal courthouse near Capitol Hill. "Your honor, what I did was wrong and I apologize to the court for my conduct," he said. He also apologized to his family for his actions.

Later in the hearing, Jackson said she did not detect great remorse. "The expressions of remorse, even those made on his behalf, were somewhat muted to say the least," the judge declared shortly before she imposed the sentence.

Jackson also rebuffed Schwartz's argument that van der Zwaan's freedom was curtailed in recent months as he spent his days at a "residential hotel" awaiting legal proceedings. "I'm not really moved by the complaint that he is in his hotel room with nothing to do," the judge said, saying he was not in custody and could have been doing community service to keep busy.

"This glass was dropped on a very thick carpet" is a quote I am going to have to remember.  And though not mentioned in this article, I am pretty sure the calculated guideline range in this matter was 0 to 6 months, so perhaps we ought also remember that the first sentence imposed in this matter emerging from the special counsel was a within-guideline (and not-bottom-of-the-range) sentence.

April 3, 2018 at 07:30 PM | Permalink

Comments

“We're not talking about a traffic ticket,” she said. “This was lying to a federal officer in the course of a criminal investigation...This was more than a mistake. This was more than a lapse or a misguided moment."

Correct. Lying to the FBI in the course of a criminal investigation was, is, and remains a patriotic duty.

Posted by: Joe Mccarthy | Apr 3, 2018 7:56:51 PM

I agree. It is a patriotic duty to lie to the US Stasi, the Columbia Law School radicalized traitor to our country, Robert Mueller.

He should be arrested for his signing off on the Uranium I deal.

Failing arrest for treason, he should be investigated for sexual harassment.

Welcome to the Inquisition 2.0, lawyer assholes. The federal prosecutor spent $2 million prosecuting Martha Stewart for saying, she did not a receive a phone call, to FBI agents in an informal conversation in her home. She got 5 months prison, 5 months house arrest and 2 years parole. That was not for insider trading, the predicate crime, but for saying she did not receive a phone call. Insider trading is itself not even a crime, but a favor, a benefit to the shareholder.

Posted by: David Behar | Apr 4, 2018 5:33:41 AM

I smell judicial and prosecutorial BS.

... oh, by the way, we live in a "free country", with American exceptionalism etc. If you don't like it here, you can go to North Korea , or Russia.

Posted by: albeed | Apr 4, 2018 5:48:23 AM

I'd have thought we could all agree that lying in an investigation -- no matter the bona fides of the investigation -- is wrong.

Posted by: DRF | Apr 4, 2018 11:27:50 AM

DRF:

I'd have thought that we could all agree that the government sticking its nose wherever it wants without any probable cause, or worse, made up lies -- is wrong.

Posted by: albeed | Apr 4, 2018 11:35:41 AM

Albeed, speaking of a hypothetical situation in which those things are so, we can certainly agree that the government would be wrong. It would still be wrong to lie to an agent during that investigation. The former does not justify the latter. If an investigation were improper, the remedy is not self help but a request for judicial intervention.

Posted by: DRF | Apr 4, 2018 11:39:38 AM

"so perhaps we ought also remember that the first sentence imposed in this matter emerging from the special counsel was a within-guideline (and not-bottom-of-the-range) sentence"

One more great moment of justice thanks to the Trump Administration.

Posted by: Joe | Apr 4, 2018 1:28:40 PM

Anyone tied to Republicans gets this kind of treatment, while Hillary gets an exoneration letter drafted in advance of an interview with a supporter who doesn't record what she says.

Posted by: William Jockusch | Apr 7, 2018 11:16:52 AM

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