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August 21, 2018

Paul Manafort found guilty of 8 of 18 counts ... and now faces real possibility of spending many years in federal prison

As the Washington Post reports here, a "jury has found former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort guilty after a three-week trial on tax and bank fraud charges — a major if not complete victory for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III as he continues to investigate the president’s associates." Here is more:

The jury convicted Manafort on eight of the 18 counts against him. The jury said it was deadlocked on the other 10. U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis declared a mistrial on those other charges. Manafort was convicted on five counts of filing false tax returns, one count of not filing a required IRS form, and two bank fraud counts....

The 18 charges in the Manafort trial centered around Manafort’s personal finances, and had little to do with the special counsel’s mandate of probing Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether any Trump associates conspired with those efforts. But the trial was the first to emerge from Mueller’s probe, and as such it marked a significant public test of his work. The jury deliberated for four days before announcing its verdict.

Over two weeks of testimony, more than two dozen witnesses, including his former right hand man Rick Gates, as well as his former bookkeeper and accountants, testified against Manafort. They said he hid millions of dollars in foreign bank accounts that went unreported to the IRS, and then later lied to banks in order to get millions of dollars in loans.

His lawyers had argued that Gates, not Manafort, was the real criminal, pointing to Gates’ admitted lies, theft, and infidelity. Gates pleaded guilty in February to lying to the FBI and conspiring against the United States, and has said he hopes to get a lesser prison sentence by cooperating against Manafort.

Prosecutors, in turn, told the jury that the most compelling evidence in the case were the dozens of documents, many of them emails, showing Manafort oversaw the false statements to the IRS and banks. Manafort, 69, called no witnesses at all, as his lawyer argued prosecutors had failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he intended to defraud the government or banks. Manafort’s lawyers repeatedly suggested their client might not have known the law.

The trial featured heated arguments at times — not between the government and defense lawyers, but between U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis and prosecutors. The judge repeatedly chided prosecutors in front of the jury, though at the end of the trial he urged the panel not to consider during deliberations any opinions he may have expressed.

Manafort faces a second trial in September in Washington DC, on charges that he failed to register as a lobbyist for the Ukraine government, and conspired to tamper with witnesses in that case. Manafort has been in jail since June as a result of the witness tampering charges....

Prosecutors charge that from 2010 to 2014, Manafort hid more than $15 million from the IRS — money he made as a political consultant in Ukraine. When that income ended in 2014, authorities charge Manafort lied to banks to get millions of dollars more in loans to support his extravagant lifestyle.

I speculated in this post from last year around the time of his indictment that Manifort could be looking at a decade in prison or longer following a conviction based on the large loss amounts connected to various charges.  This split verdict does not change my prediction that the significant amounts of money involved here means Manafort will be facing a significant guideline range at sentencing.  But his advanced age (and some of the behavior by the trial judge) leads me to think he might have a real shot at securing a below-guideline (but still substantial) sentence.

I expect some white-collar sentencing gurus might already have a sense of the guideline range that Manafort will be facing, and I will be interested to see sentencing arguments unfold in many arenas (including perhaps Twitter) in the coming weeks and months.  Of course, I welcome commentors sharing their take on what they think Manafort will get and should get for his crimes.

Prior related posts:

August 21, 2018 at 05:08 PM | Permalink


Manafort's crimes disgust me. But there is also a partisan bias that also disgusts me. Manafort gets TWO trials, presumably with prison from each. Podesta got immunity. Witnesses against Manafort were threatened with hard time so they would testify against him. Hillary got an "investigation" with an exoneration letter drafted in advance. The "Justice" department agreed to destroy evidence during the investigation, and no witness in her case was charged with anything.

Lois Lerner? No charges. Michael Cohen? 46-63 months, apparently.

So, in a world in which members of both parties faced justice equally, I would have no problem with Manafort doing 7 years or so. But we don't live in such a world. I guess cut that in half because of the partisan bias. So 3.5 years, and if he gets convicted in his other trial, I'd cut that in half too, and make it concurrent. I don't like this lenience, and this is frankly a lousy compromise, but I don't see a good one.

Posted by: William Jockusch | Aug 21, 2018 8:06:37 PM

Well 2 biggees got the axe and have a pretty good sentence, maybe. We'll see if Trump commutes or does a pardon. Either way the Feds did a good job. $15,000,000 thats a wad of money and he had the resources to hide it from the IRS.

I wouldnt be a le to sleep if I did that. I would rather pay the tax and be free. Half of that should be dnough for anyone right.

Posted by: MidWestGuy | Aug 21, 2018 9:32:20 PM

To expand on that, the above was what I think he should get. I think he probably will get more.

Posted by: William Jockusch | Aug 21, 2018 9:34:38 PM

My own guess, and it is just a guess, is that Trump will not pardon him but will commute the sentence based upon his age and his service to the country (as Trump's campaign chair). There is no good argument for a full pardon because all these crimes happened before he became a Trump ally. And there is no good argument to do nothing because he is a Trump ally. So a commutation is a nice split the difference move.

Posted by: Daniel | Aug 21, 2018 9:39:32 PM

Mr. Jockush, Hillary was not indicted for any crime, much less convicted. Am I missing something?

Posted by: Dave from Texas | Aug 22, 2018 1:19:05 AM

@Dave, yes, they bent over backwards not to indict her; see here for example. https://twitchy.com/dougp-3137/2018/04/04/perfect-sharyl-attkisson-suggests-hillary-inspired-terms-for-trump-interview-with-special-counsel/

Posted by: William Jockusch | Aug 22, 2018 8:33:44 AM

As to Manafort, even though he has two trials - if the 2 cases area consolidated for sentencing - see 3D1.1, Application Note 1, they would be grouped for guideline purposes...just an FYI.

Posted by: atomicfrog | Aug 22, 2018 10:53:58 AM

He needs to consult Levine's "171 Easy Mitigating Factors." Maybe 3 or 4 will apply!

Posted by: Emily | Aug 22, 2018 11:13:42 PM

Trump will pardon Manafort--he should. Manafort is guilty as sin. He is a loathsome creature--but the reason he was prosecuted was because he was a member of the Trump campaign. That simply cannot be.

Any fair-minded person who juxtaposes how DPJ treated Clinton vs. Trump cannot help but come away with the feeling that a thumb was on the scale. That simply cannot be.

Posted by: federalist | Aug 23, 2018 7:24:36 AM

Turns out jurors were 11-1 to convict Manafort on the other 10 counts.

federalist, you say trump should pardon manafort. why doesn't he go all the way and pardon himself?

Posted by: Emily | Aug 23, 2018 10:55:06 AM

Trump wanted to drain the swamp. The problem is that he is the swamp creature.

Posted by: Dave from Texas | Aug 23, 2018 2:27:27 PM

I read somewhere that the Watergate scandal resulted in the indictment of 69 people, with trials or pleas resulting in 48 being found guilty, many of whom were top Nixon officials. So we have a ways to go, but I think we're going to make it. Go Mueller, go!!

Posted by: Harry from Vermont | Aug 23, 2018 2:30:43 PM

I am truly sorry to say that we are experiencing the most corrupt administration since that of Richard Nixon.

Posted by: anon1 | Aug 23, 2018 7:44:13 PM

I heard that Trump's next cabinet meeting will be at the visiting room of Leavenworth.

Posted by: Nancy | Aug 25, 2018 12:06:10 AM

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