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Trump ex-aide Manafort sentenced to 47 months in prison

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Then US presidential nominee Donald Trump and Paul Manafort at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, on July 21, 2016. (Getty images)

US President Donald Trump’s former election campaign chairman Paul Manafort has been sentenced by a federal judge to less than four years in prison for financial crimes revealed during US Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s alleged role in the 2016 US presidential election.

US District Judge T.S. Ellis imposed the 47-month sentence on Manafort on Thursday during a hearing in Alexandria, Virginia, a surprisingly lenient sentence that was far less than government guidelines.

Manafort was convicted by a jury last August of five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud and one count of failing to disclose foreign bank accounts.

Ellis disregarded federal sentencing guidelines that called for a 20-year term, effectively a lifetime sentence for the 69-year-old Manafort. The judge also ordered Manafort to pay a fine of $50,000 and restitution of about $24 million.

Manafort has been jailed since June, so he will receive credit for the nine months he has already served.

He was brought into the courtroom in a wheelchair because of a condition called gout, and had no visible reaction as he heard the 47-month sentence.

The disgraced political consultant and lobbyist listened during the hearing as Ellis extolled his “otherwise blameless” life in which he “earned the admiration of a number of people” and engaged in “a lot of good things.”

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 President Viktor Yanukovych.

After 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 ostrich-skin jacket.

Legal experts expressed surprise over the sentence. “This is a tremendous defeat for the special counsel’s office,” former federal prosecutor David Weinstein said.

Manafort’s sentence was less than half of what people who plead guilty and cooperate with the government typically get in similar cases, according to Mark Allenbaugh, a former attorney with the U.S. Sentencing Commission. “Very shocking,” he said.

Manafort’s legal troubles are not over. He faces sentencing next Wednesday in Washington in a separate case for two conspiracy charges involving lobbying and money laundering to which he pleaded guilty last September.

Legal experts said the light sentence from Ellis could prompt U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson to impose a sentence closer to the maximum of 10 years in the Washington case.

Manafort is the only one of the 34 people and three companies charged by Mueller to have gone to trial. Mueller is investigation any possible links or coordination between Trump's presidential campaign and the Russian government and whether Trump has unlawfully sought to obstruct the probe.

Trump, a Republican, has denied collusion and obstruction and Russia has denied US intelligence findings that it interfered in the 2016 election in an effort to help Trump defeat Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

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