clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

A public defender explains why Paul Manafort’s sentence is so unfair

It’s indicative of the disparities in the criminal justice system.

Paul Manafort Arraigned On New Charges Of Witness Tampering.
Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort arrives at the E. Barrett Prettyman US Courthouse for a hearing on June 15, 2018, in Washington, DC. 
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Li Zhou is a politics reporter at Vox, where she covers Congress and elections. Previously, she was a tech policy reporter at Politico and an editorial fellow at the Atlantic.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.