Infamously now, Paul Manafort got a huge break from Judge T. S. Ellis, the III, no-less, who sentenced Manafort to 47 months, for crimes which required a jail sentence somewhere between 19 to 24 years. The outrageously lenient sentence created a furor in America, as commentators, legal experts and most law-makers expressed shock and disbelief at the brevity of the sentence and the injustice of the Judge in flaunting legal precedents and minimum sentence requirements. Judge T. S. Ellis, III, became the personification of rank injustice.
It was quickly pointed out by any number of those in the legal system, both by those in the prosecutorial, and the defense side, that Judge Ellis’s sentence was shorter than any number of sentences handed-out daily for crimes that are ludicrously minor in comparison to Manafort’s years of serious criminal activities.
But then the clues to the Judge’s leanings may have been amply forecast in his regular berating of the federal prosecutors in the early part of Manafort’s trials, where he even objected to the prosecutors using words like ‘Oligarchs’ in describing the Russian bad guys that Manafort had been comporting with. Any Judge who shows greater support for the accused, than that of the prosecutors trying to accurately portray the criminal world, is suspect from the start.
In making a mockery of the required sentencing of Manafort, Judge Ellis made further mockery of the American justice system which already has a somewhat dubious reputation. It is no secret that in America, as in most leading Western democracies, being rich, powerful, connected, white and male, offers a far more forgiving justice system than for those not having any or all of those traits. Manafort had all of those traits, and Judge Ellis responded to them.
Conversely, not being rich, powerful, connected, and white ensures, most times, much harsher sentencing, for far less egregious crimes. The proof of which is in the incarceration records of America’s jails, which are disproportionately filled with young poor, powerless, unconnected black males, and with people of other non-white racial traits. Some of whom were not even guilty of the crimes they were eventually convicted of, but they had little leverage in the American justice system and paid the ultimate price, at times with their very lives, in the States that happened to still have capital punishment as the ultimate sentence.
The outrageous miscarriage of justice is the norm in most of those countries that America and the West justifiably call out as undemocratic, violators of human rights, excessively corrupt and mostly authoritarian.
In calling such countries out, America and the West hold out their far more independent (from political interference and corruption) justice systems, as the example of the ideal. But the reality is, the Western justice systems, and particularly the American system, are not as blemish free as one would like to believe. It is common knowledge that in America and in the West, the wealthy able to hire ‘the best’ lawyers normally will fare much better, and escape more lightly, or entirely, than those without the capacity to influence the system. Manafort’s sentence in this instance is a case in point.
So while the American and the Western justice systems are far more accessible, fair and equitable than most of the rest of the World, where justice is almost entirely corrupted and available directly in proportion to one’s power and influence, yet, blatant high profile miscarriage of justice as in this particular case (Manfort’s first sentencing for multiple serious crimes) undermines the ability of America to point to the gross injustices of other systems. They need not be similar but the odd blatant injustice gives the ammo other countries need to push back, because its not the obvious disparity in the frequency of wrong doing but the odd breakdown, the lesser corruption in the system, which is enough to undermine the decades of moral high ground occupied by America and the West.
The other unfortunate outcome of this miscarriage of justice is the presentation of opportunity to the ever immoral and crime-denying Donald Trump, to further try and discredit the Robert Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election, and of Trump’s campaign’s role in it.
The facts are well established that the Russians very actively and effectively interfered in the American election of 2016, and Mueller was appointed to determine whether Trump’s campaign ‘colluded’ with the Russians.
Well, from all the evidence known to the public so far, it would certainly seem that Trump’s campaign team, which for a period of time was led by Manafort as Campaign Chairman, and included Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. and son-in-law Jared Kushner, among others close to Trump, all were actively meeting and working with Russian operatives to try and influence the election’s outcome.
This ‘collusion’ took the form of direct correspondence, face to face meetings (in the Trump Tower no less), and multiple interactions with intermediaries, who all worked hard to try and help Trump win and Hillary Clinton lose, which is exactly what happened. This much and more has been uncovered so far. So on the face of it, there was some form of collusion between the Russians and Trump’s team.
The other aspect to Mueller’s investigation has been the uncovering of numerous crimes committed by those in the inner circle of Trump, which have resulted in guilty pleas, cooperation with the Mueller investigation, and convictions that now also includes Manafort’s, however flawed the 47 month sentence may be.
Mass convictions arising from Mueller’s investigation into Trump’s campaign does not qualify as a spurious ‘witch hunt’, as Trump and some of the Republicans like to label it, but certainly qualifies as the uncovering of systemic criminal activity being indulged in by Trump associates, who have all either pleaded guilty, in most cases, or chosen to fight in court, and then found guilty, like Manafort.
No sitting President in US history has had so many of his inner-circle convicted of crimes and sentenced to jail as Donald J. Trump. The question that still remains in the Mueller investigation is how many more of Trump’s associates and family may be charged with criminal wrong doings, and, if Trump himself will be indicted.
The mass convictions, so far, of Trump’s inner-circle, and of those involved in the Trump campaign, including the campaign Chair Paul Manafort, along with the indictment of a number of Russians involved, clearly justify the Mueller investigation, but the almost daily proof of criminal wrong-doings and convictions don’t deter Trump, and a lot of the Republicans, from claiming ‘witch hunt’.
Judge T.S. Ellis III, in so favoring Manafort that all legal experts were left dumb-founded, and the word ‘Justice’ was rendered meaningless, has shone a powerful light on the flaws in the American justice system which are usually overlooked and ignored because the convicted are usually the faceless, powerless many, whose lives are deemed inconsequential in the general scheme of things. But Paul Manafort was none of those things. He was very wealthy, albeit through years of fraud and systemic tax evasion, he was very well connected, powerful, and white and male, and thus reaped the rewards of unjustifiable injustice.