WASHINGTON – U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis showed mercy to Paul Manafort by sentencing him to only 47 months in prison for tax and bank fraud, according to former special prosecutor Ken Starr.
“He was tempering justice with mercy. Here is a 67-year-old defendant who’s obviously not in the best of health,” Starr said on CNN’s “New Day.”
“And Judge Ellis made a very interesting comment about federal prisons. And I’ve been in a number, as a visitor, of federal prisons. People die, not through terrible things happening, but just it’s a very stressful place. And so I think Judge Ellis, who’s been on the bench for 30 years, understood that and I think he also just said to Bob Mueller’s prosecutors, ‘This is really excessive. What you are seeking is really excessive.’”
Ellis called the judicial guidelines of 19 to 24.5 years in prison “excessive” when he sentenced Manafort on Thursday.
Host John Berman brought race into the discussion, saying young black men are receiving far greater sentences than an “aging white guy convicted of tax fraud.”
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“There are two aspects to that,” Berman said. “Number one, you say it’s really tough, federal prison is. Well, it’s equally tough for young black men who get convicted of crimes that people don’t think … or they think why are they being convicted of crimes and getting far bigger sentences than [an] aging white guy convicted of tax fraud when that is a crime?”
“Each situation has to be analyzed by the judge as opposed to ‘I’m going to do a lot of comparisons here.’ That’s why you have a pre-sentencing report,” Starr replied.
“The pre-sentencing report looks at the person’s entire life. So you’re right. Are there disparities? That’s the reason we have sentencing guidelines. But it’s also the reason that Congress has seen fit to give judges the ability, it’s reviewable, so we’ll see if the prosecutors decide, ‘You know, we’re going to appeal this downward departure.’ So they have the authority to do that.”
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