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Why People Are So Angry Over Paul Manafort’s 47-Month Prison Sentence

Paul Manafort followed by a protestor with a sign accurately reading 'Traitor.'

Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, has been sentenced to just shy of four years in prison for bank and tax fraud. His crimes were uncovered by the Mueller investigation into his connections to Russia and his work in Ukraine, but they don’t directly relate to his work on the Trump campaign. Of course, that doesn’t stop Trump from thinking he’s been exonerated.

Manafort’s sentence of 47 months (minus the nine months he’s spent in jail awaiting sentencing) was far less than what prosecutors recommended. Under sentencing guidelines, they suggested he should serve 19 to 24 years. The judge in the case, Judge T.S. Ellis, said that sort of sentence would be “excessive,” saying Manafort had “lived an otherwise blameless life.”

For starters, that’s just not true. As a lobbyist in D.C., Manafort spent decades (and made a fortune) lobbying on behalf of foreign dictators and kleptocrats with histories of human rights abuses. One group of clients was literally referred to as the “torturers’ lobby.”

Paul Manafort is not a swell dude.

But even if he were “otherwise blameless,” his sentencing is a glaring window into how unbalanced the legal system is. Public defender Scott Hechinger gave some perspective on Twitter, sharing the far harsher sentences he’s seen his clients get.

Hechinger makes sure to clarify that he’s not advocating 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,” he writes.

And if you’re thinking maybe Judge Ellis just tends to go light on sentencing in general, nope.

Manafort has another sentencing next week with a different judge, for different crimes. Manafort pled guilty to conspiracy against the United States last year, which could add up to another decade to his sentence. Trump won’t say whether he plans to pardon Manafort or not, adding to our neverending national stress game of wait-and-see.

(image: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.