Federal Judge, T.S. Ellis, sentenced Paul Manafort to 47 months in prison for tax fraud and hiding foreign bank accounts . Many people were shocked by this sentencing, as the United States Sentencing Guideline range for his offenses were in the 19-25 year range. Ellis generally believed that the sentencing recommendations for tax fraud and foreign banking disclosures are excessive.
Many people wonder if the Judge was required to follow the 19-25 year Guideline range. The answer to that is no. A federal judge generally has complete discretion in choosing a sentence for a defendant, as the United States Sentencing Guidelines are only advisory, unless there is a mandatory minimum sentence associated with the particular offense for which the defendant is being sentenced.
The next question people are asking is whether the sentence was too lenient. The defense lawyers, and ultimately the judge, relied on 17 past cases where defendants broke tax or foreign banking laws and received no prison time. One case in particular, which was discussed in court was of a woman who kept an undisclosed 447 million in a foreign bank account and received a sentence of just 5 seconds of probation.
The jury agreed that Manafort had defrauded the IRS by making false claims on his tax statements. It convicted him on all 5 counts for false statements made every year from 2010-2014. During this time, Manafort failed to pay $ 6 million in taxes because he did not report overseas income. Judge Ellis ordered Manafort to pay this back and to make restitution. Judge Ellis indicated that he perceived tax crimes and foreign banking crimes as one in the same. Ellis gave Manafort two years in prison for each tax crime and two-and-a-half-year sentence for the foreign banking crime.
The other crimes that Manafort is facing in a separate federal court case, such as money laundering, illegal foreign lobbying and bank fraud, will soon be reviewed by another judge. Charges also at issue are conspiracy and witness tampering, and are capped at a 10-year maximum sentence.