Former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort officially received his sentence on Thursday and it’s quite a bit lighter than many were expecting. For conviction on eight counts of bank fraud, filing fake tax returns, and failure to report foreign assets, Manafort was sentenced to 47 months in jail, which comes out to just shy of four years.
Legal experts across the board were flummoxed. Many called out the length of the sentence as well as the message it sent: The leniency granted to Manafort only seemed to highlight the inequities in the criminal justice system, which has led to excessively harsh — and often biased — sentencing that favors wealthier, white defendants.
This Manafort sentence "suggests that the wealthy and the powerful do better in court that many other defendants do, and I think it is an attack on the legitimacy of the criminal justice system." -Barbara McQuade, former U.S. attorney pic.twitter.com/06ennWBbDJ— Maddow Blog (@MaddowBlog) March 8, 2019
Paul Manafort’s lenient 4-year sentence — far below the recommended 20 years despite extensive felonies and post-conviction obstruction — is a reminder of the blatant inequities in our justice system that we all know about, because they reoccur every week in courts across America— Ari Melber (@AriMelber) March 8, 2019
Public defender Scott Hechinger, a senior staff attorney at Brooklyn Defender Services, helped provide some additional context that underscores this point.
In a thread on Twitter, Hechinger noted how many of his clients received sentences that were far longer or comparable to Manafort’s, for minor offenses. His first tweet embodies this stark contrast.
For context on Manafort’s 47 months in prison, my client yesterday was offered 36-72 months in prison for stealing $100 worth of quarters from a residential laundry room.— Scott Hechinger (@ScottHech) March 8, 2019
Hechinger went on to highlight others who had received incredibly long sentences for offenses that included “simple possession of a firearm,” or voting while on probation.
Manafort was sentenced to less than a woman who voted while on probation without knowing she wasn’t allowed to. She was sentenced to 5 years. https://t.co/oDyhH8K0bJ— Scott Hechinger (@ScottHech) March 8, 2019
Hechinger, in the thread, made clear he was not advocating for Manafort or any other offenders to get longer sentences, but was simply trying to call attention to the disparities encountered by the “disproportionately poor & people of color” in the criminal justice system.
READ: For all those now reading this thread, before I go any further: I am not making the argument for *harsher sentences for anyone including Manafort.* I am simply pointing out the outrageous disparity between his treatment and others, disproportionately poor & people of color.— Scott Hechinger (@ScottHech) March 8, 2019
It’s very possible Manafort could ultimately receive more time.
As Vox’s Andrew Prokop notes, he is due to be sentenced next week for a different set of crimes.