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Ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen sentenced to three years prison
Michael Cohen, U.S. President Donald Trump's former attorney, exits the United States Court house after his sentencing, in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S. - Photo: Shannon Stapleton/REUTERS

Ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen sentenced to three years prison

12/12/2018
15:16
Reuters
New York
Brendan Pierson
-A +A
U.S. District Judge William Pauley in Manhattan sentenced Cohen to three years for the payments, which violated campaign finance law, and to two months for the false statements to Congress

U.S. President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen was sentenced to a total of three years in prison on Wednesday for his role in making illegal hush-money payments to women to help Trump’s 2016 election campaign and lying to Congress about a proposed Trump Tower project in Russia.

Cohen, 52, pleaded guilty in August to charges by federal prosecutors in New York that, just before the election, he paid adult film actress Stormy Daniels USD$130,000 and helped arrange a USD$150,000 payment to former Playboy model Karen McDougal so the women would keep quiet about their relationships with Trump, who is married. Trump denies having the affairs.

Cohen also admitted to unrelated tax and bank fraud. He faces sentencing on a separate charge of lying to Congress brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating possible coordination between Trump’s campaign and Russia. Cohen pleaded guilty to that charge last month.

U.S. District Judge William Pauley in Manhattan sentenced Cohen to three years for the payments, which violated campaign finance law, and to two months for the false statements to Congress. The two terms will run concurrently.

Trump has denied any collusion with Russia and has accused Mueller’s team of pressuring his former aides to lie about him, his campaign and his business dealings. Russia has denied U.S. allegations of interfering in the election to help Trump.

Prosecutors and Cohen both say the hush money payments violated campaign finance laws and were directed by Trump himself to cover up affairs he had in 2006 and 2007. Federal law requires that the contribution of “anything of value” to a campaign must be disclosed, and an individual donation cannot exceed USD$2,700.

Trump said on Monday on Twitter that the payments were a “simple private transaction” that did not violate the law.

Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani has argued the payments cannot be considered campaign finance violations because they were made to protect Trump’s reputation and would have been made even if he had not been a presidential candidate.

Though Cohen asked in a November 30 court filing to be given no jail time based on his assistance in the investigation, prosecutors on Friday asked that Cohen be given a “substantial term of imprisonment” for his crimes with only a “modest” reduction to the roughly four to five-year term they say he faces under sentencing guidelines.

Though they said he provided useful information about the hush money payments, prosecutors said Cohen declined to sign a formal cooperation agreement, which would have required him to be fully debriefed about his entire criminal history and his knowledge of others’ crimes. His refusal to cooperate fully, they said, limited his credibility as a witness.

In his guilty plea to Mueller’s charge, Cohen admitted he lied to Congress about the timeline for discussions about plans for real estate businessman Trump’s skyscraper in Moscow. He said in written testimony to two committees that the talks ended in January 2016, before the first Republican primaries, when they actually continued until June 2016 after Trump clinched the Republican nomination.

Mueller’s sentencing recommendation was more generous, saying Cohen had provided valuable information about contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russia. He recommended any sentence for lying to Congress be served concurrently with Cohen’s sentence on the charges in New York.

Sentencing consultant Justin Paperny said Judge Pauley, has a reputation for being tough on white-collar defendants and that Cohen probably made a mistake by asking for no jail time when he failed to fully cooperate.

It’s like he wanted to have his cake and eat it too,” said Paperny, adding that Cohen would do well to get a sentence in the low end of the guidelines. 

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