Paul Manafort is playing a high-stakes game of poker as his second criminal trial draws nearer.
Manafort’s lawyers are reportedly in talks with the special counsel Robert Mueller about a possible plea deal to stop the second trial from going forward.
Manafort has several options on how best to maximize his chances against Mueller. But Justice Department veterans say that no matter what he picks, “there are no good choices, there are just differing levels of bad choices.”
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As Paul Manafort’s second criminal trial looms, the former chairman of President Donald Trump’s campaign is reportedly in talks with the special counsel Robert Mueller about a possible plea deal before things kick off.
But regardless of what Manafort ultimately chooses, Justice Department veterans say it’s a high-risk gamble that could very well end with him spending the rest of his life in jail.
Mueller’s office charged Manafort in two separate indictments as part of its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Manafort pleaded not guilty in both, and he was convicted in his first trial earlier this summer on eight counts of tax fraud, bank fraud, and failure to report foreign bank accounts. He faces a possible decade in prison.
In the second case, brought in Washington, DC, Manafort has been charged with illegal lobbying, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and money laundering.
Patrick Cotter, a former federal prosecutor who was part of the team that convicted the Gambino family boss John Gotti, said Manafort has “great incentive” to consider a plea deal to save himself the expense and minimize the additional years he would face in prison if he’s convicted in the second trial.
Legal experts say the best option for Manafort would be for him to plead guilty to some charges and agree to cooperate with prosecutors. That way, he would be guaranteed a more lenient sentence.
But based on his aggressive defense strategy so far, as well as his lawyers’ public comments, it’s unlikely Manafort would agree to such a deal.
Earlier this summer, for instance, Manafort’s lead defense attorney Kevin Downing said there was “no chance” his client would flip on the president. The comment suggests Manafort is betting hard on getting a pardon from Trump, who has repeatedly complained about how unfairly Manafort is being treated.
If Manafort agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors, it would likely throw a wrench into any possibility of securing a pardon.
That leaves three options.
Door number one: Plead guilty, but don’t cooperate
Manafort could potentially pursue a plea deal that allows him to admit to some charges, but without an agreement to cooperate. That option, crucially, would leave the door open to a presidential pardon.
He would also likely get some time knocked off his sentence if he chose this option. Federal sentencing guidelines state that defendants get one point off their sentencing calculation — which results in a reduced sentence — if they plead guilty in time to save the government the effort of preparing for a case …read more
Source:: Business Insider