President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort is slated to be moved from a federal prison and transferred to the notoriously violence-plagued Rikers Island jail this month, where he will be held in solitary confinement.
Facing federal and state charges of tax and bank fraud for hiding millions of dollars of income from the IRS that he derived from advising Ukrainian lawmakers, Manafort is the first campaign associate of President Trump found guilty by a jury as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.
Manafort was convicted on federal bank fraud and tax and conspiracy charges in August and is serving a seven-and-a-half-year federal prison sentence in Pennsylvania.
Mueller recommended Manafort be sentenced for 19-24 years, but Judge T.S. Ellis III argued the Special Counsel’s assessment is “excessive in the case” and sentenced the former campaign chairman to a total of seven-and-a-half years in prison, noting Manafort’s sentencing is entirely unrelated to matters pertaining to the election collusion.
In an attempt to prevent Manafort from receiving a presidential pardon for his federal crimes, New York City District Attorney Cy Vance, Jr., a lifelong Democrat, obtained an indictment on Manafort in March on state mortgage fraud charges.
Vance warned at the time, “No one is above the law.”
The president has the power to issue pardons for federal crimes, but does not wield authority in a state case.
A Manhattan grand jury indicted Manafort, charging the lobbyist with an additional 16 state felonies and accusing him of falsifying business records to obtain millions of dollars in loans.
Vance then requested Manafort be transferred to Rikers Island.
He will likely be arraigned on the new charges in a State Supreme Court in Manhattan later this month and transferred to Rikers as soon as Thursday, but his attorneys aim to have him serve at a federal jail in New York, the New York Times reports.
High-profile inmates are typically held in protective custody and are isolated from the general population under heavy guard on Rikers Island, the infamously mismanaged jail which comprised of nine prisons, currently houses 7,500 inmates.
Alan Dershowitz, professor emeritus at Harvard Law School, warns Manafort is being treated “more harshly because of his past connections to President Trump.”
“Judge T.S. Ellis, who presided over Manafort’s first trial, understood that he was not the real object of the special prosecutor. He was being charged in order to get him to “sing” against the real object of the investigation: namely resident Trump,” Dershowitz argued in a Fox News op-ed Monday.
“Judge Ellis also pointed out the dangers of putting such pressure on a potential witness: sometimes they not only sing, they also ‘compose,’” he wrote. “Perhaps that is the real reason behind the decision to transfer Manafort: the DA hopes that he might be motivated to provide evidence of state crimes for which Trump could be charged.”
Even popular Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez condemned the move, saying, “A prison sentence is not a license for gov torture and human rights violations. That‘s what solitary confinement is.”
Paul Manafort is being sent to solitary confinement in my district – Rikers Island.
A prison sentence is not a license for gov torture and human rights violations. That‘s what solitary confinement is.
Manafort should be released, along with all people being held in solitary. https://t.co/9rERLDSzrD
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) June 5, 2019
President Trump has defended Manafort on a number of occasions, calling him a “brave man,” but has yet to indicate whether he intends to pardon his former campaign chairman.