Paul Manafort’s Lawyers: Mueller’s Attempt To ‘Vilify’ Him ‘Is Beyond The Pale’

Attorneys for Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign chairman scheduled to be sentenced for fraud next week, wrote Friday that the case brought by special counsel Robert Mueller had devastated Manafort “personally, professionally, and financially,” and asked the judge to consider his age and health when imposing his sentence. They also criticized Mueller’s team, which had told the court ahead of Wednesday’s sentencing that a greed-driven Manafort believed the law didn’t apply to him.

“The Special Counsel’s attempt to vilify Mr. Manafort as a lifelong and irredeemable felon is beyond the pale and grossly overstates the facts before this Court,” Manafort’s lawyers wrote.

Manafort was convicted in August on eight counts involving filing false income taxes, failing to report foreign bank accounts and committing bank fraud. The case revolved around Manafort’s overseas work for oligarchs backing pro-Russia politicians in Ukraine and his efforts to keep that money from the U.S. government. He’ll face a separate sentencing in connection with his case in the District of Columbia.

In the Virginia case, Mueller’s office took no position on how much time Manafort should serve but noted that the sentencing guidelines called for 19 to 24 years and said the sentence should “take into account the gravity” of Manafort’s conduct and deter both him and “those who would commit a similar series of crimes.”

“For a decade, Manafort repeatedly violated the law,” prosecutors wrote. “Considering only the crimes charged in this district, they make plain that Manafort chose to engage in a sophisticated scheme to hide millions of dollars from United States authorities. And when his foreign income stream dissipated in 2015, he chose to engage in a series of bank frauds in the United States to maintain his extravagant lifestyle, at the expense of various financial institutions.” 

Manafort, his attorneys wrote Friday, “worked hard and was proud of what he achieved” during a career that culminated in his role in Trump’s 2016 campaign. They highlighted his charitable work and listed health problems they say the 69-year-old Manafort has encountered since he was locked up last summer, including gout and thyroid issues.

“The charges and associated publicity have brought intense, negative media coverage and scrutiny, have destroyed his career, and have resulted in financial hardship for Mr. Manafort and his family,” they wrote.

They also indicated that Manafort wouldn’t have been charged for his crimes had it not been for Mueller’s special counsel investigation into Russian election interference. 

“The Special Counsel’s strategy in bringing charges against Mr. Manafort had nothing to do with the Special Counsel’s core mandate ― Russian collusion ― but was instead designed to ‘tighten the screws’ in an effort to compel Mr. Manafort to cooperate and provide incriminating information about others,” they wrote in a footnote.

Manafort’s team said he deserved a sentence significantly below the guideline range. They said he was a “relatively healthy 69-year-old man before he was remanded to custody in June 2018” but that his health had deteriorated.

“Mr. Manafort has been personally and financially punished as a result of his illegal conduct and there is no reason to believe that a sentence of many years in prison is necessary to prevent him from committing further crimes,” they wrote. “Given the severe damage to his professional reputation and the enormous investigative efforts of the Special Counsel to examine every aspect of his life, he poses no future risk to the public of reoffending and specific deterrence for a soon-to-be septuagenarian is not necessary under these circumstances.”

Manafort’s sentencing is scheduled for Thursday afternoon in Alexandria, Virginia.

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