Facing life in prison, Manafort asks for leniency in Mueller case

Paul Manafort President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman leaving the Federal District Court after a hearing in Washington in May 2018

Paul Manafort President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman leaving the Federal District Court after a hearing in Washington in May 2018

"Although Mr. Manafort downplays his physical health challenges for his family and friends, the reality is he is not the relatively healthy man he was prior to his incarceration", Manafort's lawyers wrote.

Lawyers for Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, have asked a federal judge for leniency, ahead of Manafort's sentencing on witness-tampering and unregistered-lobbying charges.

It was not immediately clear why the sentencing hearing was rescheduled from March 8.

The documents also alleged that Special Counsel Robert Mueller prosecuted Manafort because he was "unable to establish that Mr. Manafort engaged in any Russian Federation collusion" and claimed that Manafort had been "widely vilified in a manner that this country has not experienced in decades".

Paul Manafort's legal defense team, in one of its last opportunities to hit back at prosecutors, taunted special counsel Robert Mueller for not bringing a case that tied the former Trump campaign chairman to Russian government interference in the 2016 election.

"The Special Counsel's attempt to portray him as a lifelong and irredeemable felon is beyond the pale and grossly overstates the facts before this Court", they argued, noting that the prosecution has "devastated him personally, professionally, and financially".

Now a judge in Washington, D.C., will decide how much time Manafort should serve after he pleaded guilty past year to charges of conspiracy against the United States, and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

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The lawyers' arguments echoed much of the criticism leveled at the Russian Federation investigation by Trump, who has increasingly cast the probe as a politically motivated "witch hunt" even as Mueller has methodically brought charges against six of his associates, including his former personal lawyer, his one-time national security adviser and a longtime confidant. The memos are previews of the oral arguments that both sides will make before Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the U.S.District Court for the District of Columbia, who will sentence Manafort for the two conspiracy charges on March 13.

Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort arrives for arraignment on a third superseding indictment against him by Special Counsel Robert Mueller on charges of witness tampering, at U.S. District Court in Washington, June 15, 2018. The meeting involved a discussion of a Ukrainian peace plan, but many other details about it have been redacted in court papers. A jury in that case convicted him of eight felony counts this past August.

In the filing Monday, Manafort's lawyers asked Jackson to choose a sentence that is "significantly below the statutory maximum" of five years on each count.

In their memo, Manafort's lawyers argue that their client has "served four USA presidents and has no prior criminal history", but he is "presented to this court by the government as a hardened criminal".

Manafort's case, the lawyers said, already acts as a deterrent to any potential future violators.

The memo criticized the "harsh tactics" prosecutors used against Manafort that "are usually employed in organized crime cases, not tax investigations or cases involving allegations that the defendant failed to file a form identifying lobbying activities".

In addition to the case in Washington, Manafort faces the possibility of more than 19 years in prison in a separate tax and bank fraud case in federal court in Virginia. His attorneys note that doctors are looking into a thyroid problem he may have as well. "In light of his age and health concerns, a significant additional period of incarceration will likely amount to a life sentence for a first time offender".

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