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A federal judge who was once a Navy pilot shot down special counsel Robert Mueller’s sentencing recommendations against Paul Manafort Thursday and ordered that Manafort spend only 47 months behind bars.
The prosecution, which was part of Mueller’s investigation into President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, recommended Manafort be jailed for 19 and 24 years.
Judge T.S. Ellis III defied the request.
“To impose a sentence of 19-24 years on Mr. Manafort would clearly be a disparity. In the end, I don’t think the guidelines range is at all appropriate,” Ellis said, the Washington Examiner reported.
Manafort, 69, was the campaign manager of President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign for several months. None of the activities for which he was charged took place when he was overseeing the campaign. Instead, Manafort was found guilty of stashing away millions he made lobbying for Ukrainian politicians and falsifying financial records.
The judge called Mueller’s sentencing recommendation “excessive.”
Other than the crimes for which he was convicted, Manafort “has lived an otherwise blameless life,” Ellis said, noting that other cases involving similar crimes led to minimal prison time for those convicted. “The government cannot sweep away the history of all these other sentences.”
“I think what I’ve done is sufficiently punitive, and anyone who disagrees should spend a day in a federal penitentiary,” the judge said.
Ellis also ordered that Manafort receive credit for the nine months he has already served in jail.
In a rebuke of the Mueller investigation, the judge noted, “He is not before the court for anything having to do with colluding with the Russian government.”
Robert Mintz, a former federal prosecutor, said the sentence was not surprising, according to The Washington Post.
“Given the age and the health of this defendant, this is the kind of sentence that you can generally expect in a white-collar prosecution,” Mintz said.
“The sentencing guidelines and the request by the government for 19 to 24 years was something the judge was never going to seriously entertain, and I think what we saw here was a recognition that even this sentence could well be a life sentence for Mr. Manafort.”
Ellis, 78, was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The judge is known for his no-nonsense approach in the courtroom and showed his highly personalized style in conducting the trial, The New York Times reported.
“Look at me,” Ellis said during a confrontation with prosecutor Greg D. Andres. “When you look down, it’s as if to say, you know, that’s B.S. I don’t want to listen to any more from you.”
At one point, prosecutors were discussing Manafort’s expensive clothes when Ellis intervened.
“The government doesn’t want to prosecute somebody because they wear nice clothes, do they?” he said. “Let’s move on.”