Judge Ellis rebuked Special Counsel Mueller when sentencing Paul Manafort
Judge T.S. Ellis, a Reagan appointee to the Federal District Court for Eastern Virginia, is well known for speaking his mind. Yesterday, in sentencing Paul Manafort, he rebuked Team Mueller's harsh sentence recommendation of 19–24 years' imprisonment as "excessive," and instead set a lot of progressives' hair on fire by imposing a sentence of 47 months and recommended counting the nine months of time served (much of it in solitary confinement, imposed by Judge Amy Berman Jackson in a separate case in D.C. District Court) against that total, meaning just over three years of imprisonment.
Paul Manafort's mug shot — before solitary confinement.
Judge Ellis, who has read the still secret memos establishing the mandate for Team Mueller, also noted that Manafort is not being sentenced on anything related to Mueller's task:
Judge tells the courtroom that Manafort is not being sentenced for anything related to the Special Counsel's investigation into Russian interference.— Shimon Prokupecz (@ShimonPro) March 7, 2019
Ellis said "He is not before the court for anything having to do with colluding with the Russian government”
Judge Ellis also imposed a fine of $50,000 on Manafort, and $24 million in restitution, which appears to be impossible to collect, given Manafort's claim that he is financially ruined. Judge Ellis sparked even more progressive outrage by citing Manafort's "otherwise blameless life" (meaning no prior convictions), leading Franklin Foer of The Atlantic to imply that lobbying on behalf of tobacco companies and for corporate tax breaks ought to weigh against him in sentencing.
Manafort, who turns 70 soon, will almost certainly face a much harsher sentence from Judge Jackson and may well die in prison, which is what Mueller's recommendation almost certainly would have resulted in.
Bonchie of Red State well explains what Judge Ellis's remarks were aimed at accomplishing:
Judge Ellis also went out of his way today to publicly proclaim that Manafort's sentencing has nothing to do with "Russian collusion" or any other Democrat fever dream. The judge has been forceful on that aspect for a while, trying to ensure that no false narratives emanate from his court room.
That hasn't stopped the media from continuing to delve into ridiculous conspiracy theories, such as the idea that Manafort sharing personal polling data with a Russian associate somehow constitutes something illegal or nefarious. In reality, the most likely explanation is that Manafort, having known the associate for decades and needing money, was trying to gin up future lines of income by giving him access to the information. Regardless, nothing was illegal about the contact and it's simply served as yet another dead end to bat around on CNN and the pages of The New York Times.
I have never been a fan of Paul Manafort, and I have no sympathy for his tax evasion and other crimes. But the fact that he was never prosecuted until he worked for Donald Trump, who won, suggests he is a victim of a political witch hunt. That his lavish lifestyle (and expensive ostrich jacket) — legal if vulgar — was used by prosecutors in making their case exploits class envy and does not sound like the pursuit of justice. That he has been imprisoned in solitary confinement while awaiting trial and sentencing is shameful in my book. I hope (but do not expect) that Judge Jackson imposes a concurrent, if longer, sentence on him.