As our nation discusses reducing prison sentences for nonviolent offenses, Special Counsel Robert Mueller seems to be going another route.
On Friday, Mueller asked a federal judge to send Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, to prison for 20 to 24 years for financial fraud.
"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 wrote, according to USA Today. "The sentence here should reflect the seriousness of these crimes, and serve to both deter Manafort and others from engaging in such conduct."
Prosecutors also asked for restitution and demanded Manafort forfeit his properties for a total of $30 million.
Earlier in the week, a federal judge determined Manafort had lied to prosecutors in violation of his plea agreement, according to USA Today.
Manafort was found guilty last August of financial fraud, mostly in connection to his consulting work in Ukraine for which he did not file necessary paperwork under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) — a crime for which few have been punished.
To put this in perspective, Democrat operative Tony Podesta was allowed to retroactively file under FARA and has thus far escaped punishment. In December, the Associated Press reported Mueller was “ramping up” his investigation of the Podesta Group and Mercury Public Affairs as part of his probe into Manafort.
“The investigation reflects how Mueller, in latching onto an obscure law, has shined a light on high-dollar lobbying practices that have helped foreign governments find powerful allies and advocates in Washington. It’s a practice that has spanned both parties and enriched countless former government officials, who have leveraged their connections to influence American politics,” the AP reported.
Financial fraud can result in massive sentences. Bernie Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison with $170 billion in restitution after he operated the largest and most infamous Ponzi scheme in history.
Still, the lengthy sentence for Manafort and his “example” status seems harsh, considering many violent criminals get sentences much shorter than that (yet another indictment of our justice system).
Radio host and Hill.tv “Rising” co-host Buck Sexton called the sentence “insane” on Twitter.
“This is insane. People- routinely- commit heinous, violent crimes across the country and get less prison time,” Sexton tweeted. “Manafort is a tax cheat and a liar. He’s not Ted Bundy.”
Prosecutors, obviously, may not get the sentence they have requested for Manafort, and may be throwing these numbers out there in the hopes they will get something remotely close to that prison sentence, which could amount to a death sentence for the 69-year old Manafort. Should Mueller get his way, Manafort wouldn’t be released until he is 93 (in the unlikely event his sentence wouldn’t be reduced in the meantime).
This is not to suggest that Manafort did nothing wrong or doesn’t deserve some punishment, but 20 to 24 years seems like an exorbitant sentence for a nonviolent offender. One wonders if the Left would cheer this sentence if it were Podesta’s life before the judge.
I can’t speak for others, but as someone who writes regularly about crime and the legal system, I would still question the sentence if it were Podesta.