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Thursday, April 5, 2018

"This glass was dropped on a very thick carpet" -- Kremlingate and Equal Justice

Alex van der Zwaan, Dutch attorney and son-in-law of a Russian oligarch close to Putin, lied to federal agents investigating Manafort. In sentencing him, US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson spoke of equal justice before the law:
Lying would be wrong in any criminal investigation but this investigation also involves important questions of great national and international interest. It involves our country`s and probably other countries'  national security and the prospect of potential foreign interference and the democratic processes that are fundamental to our freedoms.

So, there is not much good you can say about the nature and circumstance of the offense. And to be fair, the defense doesn`t talk about them much at all.

The defense has asked for a sentence that consists of a fine so that you, the defendant, can return to your wife and start visiting your mother again. Those facts that I`ve been asked to consider really don`t differentiate this defendant significantly from the people who stand before me every day. There are people who are forced to accept severe, sometimes mandatory consequences of non-violent criminal activity, activity that
didn`t involve dishonesty, and they have been prompted by greater financial process or the lack of opportunities and upbringing that this man enjoyed.

I often find myself sentencing individuals with ailing parents, pregnant wives and needy children but few if any have the resources this family has to sustain itself. I`ve been told that this defendant has been punished enough because his life has been shattered, but this glass was dropped on a very thick carpet and it`s cushioned the blow.
 I just can`t say pay your fine at the door and go, especially given the facts and the pre-sentence report concerning this defendant`s assets and assistance he`s being provided now. I`m not sure it would be felt.
Even if every dollar were you own, we`re not talking about a traffic ticket here. This was lying during the course of a criminal investigation. Being able to write a check and walk away would not fulfill the function of deterring others and it would send the exact wrong message.

To impose a fine or probation sentence alone would be contrary to the policies and principles that led to the creation of the sentencing guidelines in the first place, that people with your advantages were getting probation and others weren`t. This criminal justice system isn`t supposed to favor those with means and while it`s true that you did plead guilty and it would not be fair to treat this defendant more harshly because it`s a high profile investigation, the judge says, I have come to the conclusion the offense warrants a period of some incarceration.