The office of Special Counsel recommended an unexpectedly harsh prison sentence for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, suggesting a term of between 19.5 and 24.5 years for eight crimes, CNN reports. Manafort was convicted by a jury last year for a number of financial crimes, including bank and tax fraud.
"In the end, Manafort acted for more than a decade as if he were above the law, and deprived the federal government and various financial institutions of millions of dollars," prosecutors said at the time. "The sentence here should reflect the seriousness of these crimes, and serve to both deter Manafort and others from engaging in such conduct."
Many presumed that Manafort's age -- he is 69 -- could help make the case for a less severe sentence, but Mueller's team addressed that issue specifically, saying that his age in no way reduced the likelihood of continued violations of the law and pointing out that his convictions included crimes that took place as recently as last year. The most recent crimes were related to Manafort's attempts to influence witnesses involved in previous indictments. He spent eight months in jail for bail violations related to the witness tampering.
While Mueller's recommendation may be considered when determining sentencing, it is not at all binding and a final decision will rest on the decision of the judge, who has not yet set a sentencing date.Prison time aside, prosecutors have already agreed to substantial financial penalties for Manafort. He faces $24 million in fines, another $25 million in restitution, and $4.4 million forfeited to the federal government.
As recently as September of last year, Manafort's chances of a lengthy prison term seemed unlikely as he negotiated a deal to corporate with the special counsel's office and the Justice Department in general. However it was later determined that during a series of "cooperation interviews" in front of a grand jury, Manafort lied repeatedly, including about his connections with Russia.
The steep sentencing recommendation comes on the heels of a federal judge certifying that Manafort had lied intentionally during his testimony and that the information misrepresented was in fact substantially important to the investigation at hand. As the case continues to play out in two separate jurisdictions, he will receive two sentences in the near future, with one on the docket for March 13 and the other unscheduled.
As Manafort's legal challenges continue to play out, his health appears to be visibly deteriorating, with a recent court appearance occurring in a wheelchair.