Paul Manafort Is Sentenced to Less Than 4 Years in 1 of 2 Cases Against Him – The New York Times

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Paul Manafort Is Sentenced to Less Than 4 Years in 1 of 2 Cases Against Him

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President Trump’s former campaign chairman has been sentenced to less than four years in prison for financial fraud. He will be sentenced in a second case next week.CreditCreditYuri Gripas/Reuters
  • March 7, 2019

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Paul Manafort, the political consultant and Trump presidential campaign chairman whose lucrative work in Ukraine and ties to well-connected Russians made him a target of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, was sentenced on Thursday to nearly four years in prison in the financial fraud case that left his grand lifestyle and power-broker reputation in ruins.

The sentence in the highest-profile criminal case mounted by the special counsel’s office was far lighter than the 19- to 24-year prison term recommended under sentencing guidelines. Judge T. S. Ellis III of the United States District Court in Alexandria, Va., said that although Mr. Manafort’s crimes were “very serious,” following the guidelines would have resulted in an unduly harsh punishment.

A team of Mr. Mueller’s prosecutors sat glum-faced as Judge Ellis delivered his decision. Mr. Manafort, who has gout and came to the hearing in a wheelchair with his foot heavily bandaged, had asked the judge for compassion. “To say I feel humiliated and ashamed would be a gross understatement,” he said in a barely audible voice, reading from a prepared statement.

Of the half-dozen former Trump associates prosecuted by Mr. Mueller, Mr. Manafort garnered the harshest punishment yet in the case that came to a conclusion on Thursday — the first of two for which Mr. Manafort is being sentenced this month. While prosecutors sought no specific sentence, some legal experts said a prison term that amounts to one-fifth of the lightest punishment recommended had to disappoint them.

“It’s atrociously low,” said Barbara McQuade, a former United States attorney who teaches law at the University of Michigan and watched much of Mr. Manafort’s trial over the summer. While “many judges do sentence leniently in white-collar cases,” she said, “dropping all the way from 19 years to four years is absurd.”

[“I am a Caesar in my own Rome,” Judge Ellis once said as he demanded a breakneck pace during the Manafort trial.]

Mr. Manafort’s allies had long believed that Mr. Manafort had a chance of leniency from Judge Ellis, a Reagan appointee who sparred repeatedly with the special counsel’s team during the trial and has publicly voiced concerns that independent prosecutors have too much power. Minutes after the three-hour hearing started, Judge Ellis, unprompted, noted that Mr. Manafort was “not before this court for anything having to do with collusion with the Russian government to influence this election,” the core of Mr. Mueller’s inquiry.

Although Judge Ellis seemed swayed by the defense’s arguments, Mr. Manafort may face a less sympathetic reception next week when he is sentenced in the District of Columbia on two conspiracy counts by Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the United States District Court. Those charges each carry a maximum of five years. Kevin Downing, one of Mr. Manafort’s lawyers, asked Judge Ellis to order that Mr. Manafort serve both sentences simultaneously. But Judge Ellis said that was up to Judge Jackson.

For nearly two years, prosecutors pursued Mr. Manafort on two tracks, charging him with more than two dozen felonies, including obstruction of justice, bank fraud and violations of lobbying laws. They ultimately won Mr. Manafort’s pledge to cooperate after he was convicted of eight felonies in the Northern Virginia case and faced a second trial in Washington.

But although he met with the special counsel’s office for a total of about 50 hours, prosecutors said on Thursday that Mr. Manafort provided little information of value for their inquiry into how Russian operatives interfered in the 2016 presidential race and whether any Trump associates conspired with them.

Most of what Mr. Manafort told the office of the special counsel “we already knew or was already in documents,” Greg D. Andres, the lead prosecutor in the case, said in court. “It certainly wasn’t 50 hours of information that was useful.”

The evidence in the case before Judge Ellis showed that Mr. Manafort hid millions of dollars of income in overseas accounts and lied to banks to obtain millions more in loans — a financial scheme that prosecutors said was rooted in greed and in Mr. Manafort’s sense that he was above the law.

They described him as a hardened, remorseless criminal who never fully accepted responsibility for his offenses and who continued to lie to federal prosecutors even after he pleaded guilty to two conspiracy counts in a related case in Washington and agreed to cooperate with the special counsel’s office last fall.

[The rise and fall of Paul Manafort: greed, deception and ego.]

But defense lawyers cited Mr. Manafort’s age, health problems and lack of a criminal record. He will turn 70 next month.

Judge Ellis said that Mr. Manafort “has lived an otherwise blameless life,” and he cited other tax cases that had resulted in minimal prison time. “The government cannot sweep away the history of all these other sentences,” he said.

The judge ordered Mr. Manafort to pay $25 million in restitution and a $50,000 fine. He also gave Mr. Manafort credit for the nine months he had already spent in jail, which could mean Mr. Manafort would be released in just over three years.

Mr. Manafort was a prime target for Mr. Mueller, who is believed to be winding down his 22-month investigation and is expected to deliver a report soon to Attorney General William P. Barr. While the prosecutions against Mr. Manafort did not involve his five months of work for the Trump campaign, prosecutors clearly hoped for the collateral benefit of winning his cooperation with the Russia inquiry.

At a closed hearing in February, Andrew Weissmann, one of Mr. Mueller’s top deputies, told Judge Jackson that it was highly unusual for the government to strike a plea deal with a defendant like Mr. Manafort who had already put the government through a trial. He alluded to the government’s motives for making such a pact, citing “enormous interest” in “the intelligence that could be gathered in having a cooperating witness in this particular investigation.”

But prosecutors abandoned the plea agreement in November, saying Mr. Manafort had repeatedly lied to them. In a recent ruling, Judge Jackson agreed that Mr. Manafort had deceived investigators about three matters.

One was revealed through an inadvertent mistake in a court filing in January that showed that Mr. Manafort had lied to the prosecutors about his interactions with a Russian associate, Konstantin V. Kilimnik, who has been identified by prosecutors as having ties to Russian intelligence. Those interactions included Mr. Manafort’s transferring campaign polling data to Mr. Kilimnik.

The special counsel’s office had wanted that information kept out of the public eye to protect an open investigation. It remains unclear why Mr. Kilimnik would want such polling data, what exactly he did with it and whether the data transfer might have helped inform the Russian government’s covert operation to interfere with the American election.

It is also unclear why Mr. Manafort lied about it; prosecutors appeared to suggest that Mr. Manafort might have feared that the revelation that he had turned over polling data would have reduced his chances of receiving a presidential pardon for his crimes.

Before Judge Ellis, Mr. Manafort’s lawyers repeatedly suggested that the special counsel’s office pursued their client because of his importance to the Russia inquiry. They said his political consulting work for four American presidents, including Mr. Trump, spoke to his high ideals. And they argued that the special counsel’s office had vilified him for what are essentially garden-variety crimes that for other defendants merited only limited time behind bars.

“Most importantly, what you saw today is the same thing that we have said from Day 1,” Mr. Downing, one of Mr. Manafort’s lawyers, said in a short statement outside the courthouse. “There is absolutely no evidence that Paul Manafort was involved in any collusion with any government official or Russia.”

While Judge Ellis faulted Mr. Manafort for not apologizing for his criminal conduct, he also noted that the special counsel’s office had not requested a specific prison term.

During the trial, prosecutors put forward exhaustive evidence of how Mr. Manafort had illegally concealed his work on behalf of political parties in Ukraine that were aligned with Russia and of how he hid more than $55 million in payments from that work in more than 30 overseas bank accounts.

Once his income from Ukraine dried up, the evidence showed, Mr. Manafort deceived banks to obtain loans to sustain a lavish lifestyle. At the same time, he worked for the Trump campaign at no cost, apparently hoping his status as campaign chairman would attract deep-pocketed foreign clients. He was fired from the campaign after five months when the scandal over his hidden income from Ukraine broke in August 2016.

“The defendant blames everyone from the special counsel’s office to his Ukrainian clients for his own criminal choices,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo.

Mr. Manafort was indicted on 18 counts in the Northern Virginia case, but the jury convicted him on only eight: five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud and one count of failure to disclose a foreign bank account. Because of one holdout juror, the panel deadlocked on the other charges. Mr. Manafort admitted that he was guilty of those as well, though, as part of his plea agreement.

Correction: March 7, 2019

An earlier version of this article misidentified the lawyer Andrew Weissmann. He is a top deputy for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, not for Paul Manafort, the president’s former campaign chairman.

Noah Weiland and Zach Montague contributed reporting.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: MANAFORT GIVEN LESS THAN 4 YEARS; FACED LONG TERM. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

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Mark Zuckerberg is rumored to have a secret escape passageway beneath his conference room for emergencies (FB)

facebook ceo mark zuckerberg

When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg first got 24/7 executive protection, there was a problem: He kept wandering off.

Sources said that in the early 2010s, the world-famous tech cofounder didn’t always keep his security team — initially just one person — in the loop on his plans. He might decide on a whim to leave the office, go for a jog, or to a bar, leaving his staff scrambling to keep up.

“He [was] in his mid-twenties … he was developing a platform he truly believed was good … at the time he didn’t grasp the concept that there were haters out there,” one source said.

Since then, however, the billionaire exec has grown more accepting of the constant presence of executive protection, according to insiders. His closely monitored patterns of life now far more closely resemble a head of state than a typical 34-year-old engineer, with the stricter security practices mirroring the increasing fortification of Facebook over the years.

Business Insider spoke with current and former workers at Facebook’s Global Security organization and others familiar with the matter, obtained internal company documents, reviewed court documents, and surveyed publicly available information in a 5,000-word investigation into how Facebook handles its corporate security, which you can read in full here

These sources described sophisticated logistical challenges in protecting tens of thousands of employees and contract workers every day, and an underlying struggle that the techie ideals of openness and engineer freedom have with the realities of protecting a high-profile and increasingly controversial multinational firm — as well as the challenges that come with protecting one of the world’s richest men.

They also shared stories of stolen prototypes, gang violence, state-sponsored espionage fears, stalkers, car bomb concerns, secret armed guards — and more.

The rumored ‘panic chute’

Armed executive protection officers stand on constant guard outside Zuckerberg’s gated homes in the Bay Area, at least one of which also features a panic room. If he goes to a bar, his team will sweep through ahead of time to make sure it’s safe. They will vet any new doctors, and they will assess his instructors if he wants to take up a new hobby. He is driven everywhere, with the security team monitoring traffic and adjusting his route accordingly. (Back when he still drove, Zuckerberg was, in the words of one source, a “s—– driver.”)

During company all-hands meetings, members of Zuckerberg’s Praetorian Guard sit at the front of the room and are dotted throughout the crowd, just in case an employee tries to rush him. They wear civilian clothes to blend in with non-security employees.

Zuckerberg doesn’t typically work in a cordoned-off office like a traditional corporate executive. Instead, his regular desk is on the floor of Facebook’s open-plan office, just like everyone — but executive-protection officers sit near his desk while he works, in case of security threats. Facebook’s offices are built above an employee parking lot, but it’s impossible to park directly beneath Zuckerberg’s desk because of concerns about the risk of car bombs.

He also has access to a large glass-walled conference room in the middle of the space near his desk that features bullet-resistant windows and a panic button. There’s also a persistent rumor among Facebook employees that he has a secret “panic chute” his team can evacuate him down to get him out of the office in a hurry. The truth of this matter remains murky: One source said they had been briefed about the existence of a top-secret exit route through the floor of the conference room into the parking garage, but others said they had no knowledge of it. Facebook declined to comment on this.

Mark Zuckerberg happy

A $10 million security plan

All told, there are now more than 70 people on the executive-protection team at Facebook, led by former US Secret Service special agent Jill Leavens Jones. In July 2018, Facebook’s board approved a $10 million security allowance for Zuckerberg and his family for the year.

And with good reason: The billionaire chief exec lives an extraordinarily public life, with 118 million followers on Facebook alone (making him both an icon of Facebook’s ideals and, increasingly, a magnet for public ire after his company’s recent scandals), and the threats he faces are severe.

He receives numerous of death threats each week, and the security team actively monitors social media for mentions of him and Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, to detect them. The pair also have stalkers, who alternately declare their undying love for the execs and harbor worrying vendettas against them.

Zuckerberg and Sandberg are the only two Facebook execs with 24/7 executive protection, though others may get it for specific occasions, such as during travel. The pair also have amusing security code names, which Business Insider is not publishing for safety reasons.

Such stalkers are classified as “BOLOs,” short for “Be On the Look Out,” a category of person barred from all Facebook property. If BOLOs use Facebook or the other apps the company owns, the security team may quietly use data drawn from these apps to monitor their location without telling them, CNBC previously reported.

In one surreal episode, someone turned up outside Zuckerberg’s house with a love letter scrawled across the side of their truck, a source said. Security officers initially assumed it was directed at the CEO — but it was actually for the benefit of one of the housekeeping staff.

Pranks and political stunts are another concern: High-profile execs make prime targets, as Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates infamously discovered when he had a pie thrown in his face in Brussels in 1998. Anytime Zuckerberg goes out in public, there are concerns he could be mobbed, and his appearances at events are carefully planned and mapped out.

People will also send unsolicited presents to his home — everything from cookies to a gift from a rabbi after the birth of one of his children. (These get sent to the security team for inspection; Zuckerberg doesn’t open them himself.)

In Facebook’s offices, things are less intense, but employees will still rush to get the seats at meetings closest to Zuckerberg. Executive-protection officers are instructed to be alert for employees and guests at the offices trying to take unauthorized photos of Zuckerberg, which is against the rules. Some employees, too, will try and give him gifts.

“If you’ve ever been close to his office, you’ll see there are big burly people sitting there staring at screens. They pretend to be software engineers, but everyone knows that they are security guards,” one Facebook employee wrote in a Quora post. “Once I was there at 7am, and tried to take a picture of his office (he was not inside) to send to my family, but immediately, 3 of the men came seemingly out of nowhere and asked me to delete the picture.”

You can read Business Insider’s full investigation into Facebook’s corporate security here »


Do you work at Facebook? Contact this reporter via Signal or WhatsApp at +1 (650) 636-6268 using a non-work phone, email at rprice@businessinsider.com, Telegram or WeChat at robaeprice, or Twitter DM at @robaeprice. (PR pitches by email only, please.) You can also contact Business Insider securely via SecureDrop.

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