Paul Manafort was finally sentenced in a Washington D.C. Federal Court after being found guilty on eight counts of tax fraud, banking fraud and failing to register as a foreign agent. He was originally tried on 18 separate counts, but there was a mistrial on ten of those counts where one juror held out on those charges. Manafort later admitted guilt on those charges in another courtroom. Manafort showed no remorse at his sentencing, which the judge remarked on, yet Judge T.S. Ellis still saw fit to ignore the sentencing guidelines which recommended a sentence of 19–24 years, instead, giving him 47 months, before being credited for time served and the equivalent of good behavior.
When his sentence was announced, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth by people, particularly the media, who expected a much harsher sentence. They were shocked, that a rich white man, who stole tens of millions of dollars from the public in terms of unpaid taxes. Who lied to prosecutors while pretending to cooperate, who tampered with witnesses, gave confidential polling data to a Russian oligarch, and aided dictators and murderers for the last twenty years of his life. Shocked that he got away with what amounts to a slap on the wrist.
For all the dismay of the newscasters across the media. Black people who just watched the police officers that shot an unarmed man in his grandmother’s back yard and never went to trial were not surprised. The rape victims that discovered their rapists were given a sweetheart deal by a U.S. Attorney, illegally without their knowledge while labeling the underage victims as prostitutes were not surprised. Crystal Mason, a black woman who just started serving a five-year sentence for voting, not realizing her voting rights had not been restored after serving time for a felony charge, she’s not surprised. The Ohio State wrestlers who were molested while one of their former coaches knew and said nothing, watch as their story blew over and that coach is a prominent member of Congress; not surprised.
Justice is a wonderful notion, however flexible in its application. The best way to avoid it is to be rich, white and powerful. In the Manafort case, Judge Ellis claimed Manafort had led, “an otherwise blameless life.” This while Manafort was awaiting sentencing for other crimes in a different jurisdiction. Judge Ellis has a reputation for being notoriously soft on “white-collar crime.” Why not be clear, there are whole categories of crime generally associated with rich white people, for whom justice is rarely meted out fairly. The Manafort case was no exception.
Manafort appeared in court in a wheelchair, green jumpsuit, claiming a litany of medical ailments. Were it not for his remaining sentencing next week, he might have hopped out of his chair and thanked his lawyers. He acknowledged being, “embarrassed and sad,” which apparently was penalty enough when you’re white, male, and rich.