Manafort's sentence in Virginia was immediately criticized. However, Judge Ellis argued the recommended sentence was far too harsh considering Manafort's crimes and he was using his best judgment in the sentencing.
Judge Ellis’s sentence set off a firestorm of criticism from commentators who complained it was overly lenient for a defendant who had orchestrated a multimillion-dollar fraud over a decade. Much of the legal world considered the sentencing guidelines in the Virginia case, which called for a prison term of 19 to 24 years, far too harsh.
...Instead, some predicted, she would most likely allow Mr. Manafort to serve his sentences simultaneously, which would cap his prison term at 10 years.
“What is happening today is not and cannot be a review and a revision by a sentence imposed by another court,” Judge Jackson said on Wednesday, referring to the sentence Mr. Manafort received last week.
Many felt that Manaforts crimes, including that he "hid millions of dollars of income in overseas accounts and lied to banks to obtain millions more in loans" and worked with foreign governments without disclosing his affiliation, indicated a persistent disregard for the law.
Additionally, Manafort had originally agreed to work with Robert Mueller's team, yet he lied to investigators and broke his plea deal. According to Vox, Mueller himself recommended a harsh sentence for Manafort.
The special counsel did not recommend a specific sentence for Manafort, but as a ballpark, he said he agreed with the probation department’s proposed guidelines for a sentence of at least 19 and a half years.
“Manafort acted for more than a decade as if he were above the law, and deprived the federal government and various financial institutions of millions of dollars,” Mueller wrote. “The sentence here should reflect the seriousness of these crimes, and serve to both deter Manafort and others from engaging in such conduct.”
Public figures and legal experts alike criticized the dramatically reduced sentence. Per the New York Times:
...“It’s atrociously low,” said Barbara McQuade, a former United States attorney who teaches law at the University of Michigan and watched much of Mr. Manafort’s trial over the summer. While “many judges do sentence leniently in white-collar cases,” she said, “dropping all the way from 19 years to four years is absurd.”
Some were also quick to point out the dramatic disparity between Manafort's sentence and sentences regularly doled out to low-level criminals. Scott Hechinger, a lawyer and director of policy with the Brooklyn Defenders, listed several clients he personally worked with, as well as nationally known cases, where people had faced far harsher sentences for arguably much smaller crimes.
While Hechinger did not argue for a harsher sentence for Manafort, he drew attention to the differences in the way the richest and poorest Americans are treated by the judiciary.
Judge Amy Berman Jackson, during Manafort's sentencing hearing in Washington, did not come out in full-throated support of Judge Ellis' ruling. She did, however, agree with the judge that the recommended sentence was overly long. She also stated she would allow her sentence to run concurrently with the Virginia sentence, as the crimes were similar. Per the Washington Post:
Jackson said Manafort’s crimes were “not just a failure to comply with some pesky regulations” but “lying to the American people and the American Congress. ... It is hard to overstate the number of lies and amount of money involved.”
His motivation, she added, was “not to support a family, but to sustain a lifestyle that was ostentatiously opulent and extravagantly lavish — more houses a family can enjoy, more suits than one man can wear.”
But she agreed with Judge T.S. Ellis III in Alexandria that sentencing guidelines in the case were excessive. She said that 30 months of her sentence must run concurrently to his Virginia term because the underlying conduct is the same.
Promptly after receiving his sentence from Judge Jackson, Manafort was indicted on 16 counts by prosecutors in Manhattan. While President Trump could pardon Manafort for the federal crimes he was just sentenced for, he would not be able to garner a presidential pardon for these new state charges.
Those who are frustrated with Manafort's sentence now have another opportunity to see justice, as they see it, done.