Prosecutors working on the special counsel investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election disputed Tuesday that Paul Manafort was charged with fraud only because of his relationship with the president.
Manafort, who turns 70 in April, faces potentially spending the rest of his life behind bars when he comes before Judge T.S. Ellis at on Thursday afternoon, USA time, in an Alexandria, Virginia, courtroom.
The sentencing hearing for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has begun in Virginia with the 69-year-old entering the courtroom in a wheelchair.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller released a sentencing memo in the case against Manafort in Washington, D.C., describing "bold" criminal actions by Manafort in a lengthy new memo in February. 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". "My life - personally and professionally - is in shambles".
Manafort added that he hoped to turn things around "through the power of prayer and God's guiding hand" before asking the judge for compassion.
He is still facing additional years in prison from another case: After his conviction in Virginia, Manafort pleaded guilty in Washington to foreign lobbying violations and witness tampering as part of a plea deal with prosecutors.
The eight crimes for which Manafort will be sentenced on Thursday include five convictions of tax fraud from 2010 through 2014, hiding his foreign bank accounts from federal authorities in 2012 and defrauding two banks for more than $4 million in loans intended for real estate.
They said Manafort engaged in a scheme to hide tens of millions of dollars from the federal government by hiding money overseas, evading taxes, and defrauding several financial institutions.
He told Ellis the last two years have been the most hard he and his family have ever experienced, and appeared to choke up a bit as he told the judge he appreciated the trial that has been conducted. They do not directly address Russia's interference in the 2016 US presidential election.
Manafort, President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, will appear in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, after a prosecution that left his reputation in tatters, his fortune depleted and his health deteriorating.
He is scheduled to be sentenced in the Washington case next week.
Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about his contacts with Russian officials and is awaiting sentencing. Even Ellis at the outset of the case speculated that prosecutors' true motive in prosecuting Manafort was to pressure him to provide evidence against Trump.
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 global figures as former Angolan rebel leader Jonas Savimbi, former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos and Yanukovych. "The defendant blames everyone from the Special Counsel's Office to his Ukrainian clients for his own criminal choices".
They pointed out that Manafort, who suffers from gout, is a first-time offender and said the sentencing guidelines are "clearly disproportionate" for the crimes he committed.
In the case in Virginia, Judge Ellis showed some antagonism towards Mueller's prosecutors. Still, prosecutors sprinkled tantalizing clues in court filings about Manafort's interactions with an associate, Konstantin Kilimnik, linked by Mueller to a Russian intelligence service.