Donald Trump campaign ex-chief Paul Manafort jailed for 47 months for fraud

President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort has been sentenced to 47 months for bank and tax fraud in a jail term far shy of sentencing guidelines.

His was the first trial sparked by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.

The 69-year-old, who is awaiting sentencing for different charges next week, faced potentially spending the rest of his life in prison.

However, US District Judge T.S. Ellis has handed down a 47-month sentence for the eight charges the veteran Republican political consultant was convicted of by a jury in Alexandria, Virginia last August.

It doesn’t follow federal sentencing guidelines cited by prosecutors that call for 19-1/2 to 24 years in prison

He will be sentenced on March 13 in Washington, on two conspiracy charges to which he pleaded guilty last September.

The maximum sentence for that charge is capped at 10 years.

However US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson potentially could stack that on top of whatever prison time Ellis imposes in Virginia, rather than allowing the sentences to run concurrently.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis also ordered Manafort to pay a fine of $50,000  in a hearing in which the veteran consultant also asked for mercy but did not express remorse for his actions.

In handing out the jail time, the judge said the sentencing guidelines were excessive and would create "an unwarranted disparity" with other cases.

Manafort, who opted not to testify during his trial, told the court that "to say I have been humiliated and ashamed would be a gross understatement."

He described his life as "professionally and financially in shambles."

Manafort was convicted after prosecutors accused him of hiding from the US government millions of dollars he earned as a consultant for Ukraine’s former pro-Russia government.

After pro-Kremlin Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s ouster, prosecutors said, Manafort lied to banks to secure loans and maintain an opulent lifestyle with luxurious homes, designer suits and even a $15,000 (£11,449) ostrich-skin jacket.

Manafort is the only one of the 34 people and three companies charged by Mueller to have gone to trial.

Several others including former campaign aides Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen have pleaded guilty, while longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone has pleaded not guilty.

Gates, a key witness against Manafort, has yet to be sentenced due to his ongoing cooperation with prosecutors.

Manafort will be sentenced by a judge who faced criticism by some in the legal community for making comments during the trial that were widely interpreted as biased against the prosecution.

Ellis repeatedly interrupted prosecutors, told them to stop using the word "oligarch" to describe people associated with Manafort because it made him seem "despicable," and objected to pictures of Manafort’s luxury items they planned to show jurors.

"It isn’t a crime to have a lot of money and be profligate in your spending," Ellis told prosecutors.

Mueller’s charges led to the stunning downfall of Manafort, a prominent figure in Republican Party circles for decades who also worked as a consultant to such international figures as former Angolan rebel leader Jonas Savimbi, former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos and Yanukovych.

Mueller is preparing to submit to U.S. Attorney General William Barr a report on his investigation into whether Trump’s campaign conspired with Russia and whether Trump has unlawfully sought to obstruct the probe.

Trump has denied collusion and obstruction. Russia has denied election interference.

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