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Ex-Detroit U.S. Attorney on Manfort’s Sentence: ‘It Reflects The Class and Racial Disparities That Exist In The Criminal-Justice System’

U.S. Attorney McQuade

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

DETROIT — Outrage is voiced about a 47-month prison sentence for former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, whose federeal penalty for bank and insurance frauds falls far short of the 19-24 years suggested in sentencing guidelines. U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III on Thursday called the guidelines “vindictive” and “way out of whack.”

But ex-Detroit U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade, who now teaches law at the University of Michigan, sees something far more troubling than the judge did. She thinks class and racism are at play, and that Manafort may have benefited from being a privileged white guy.

She writes in The Daily Beast:

In the case of Manafort, I believe that the drastic variance from the guidelines range has little to do with Manafort’s connections to Trump, though Judge Ellis openly expressed hostility to the special counsel and its prosecution of Manafort throughout the case. Instead, I think it reflects the class and racial disparities that exist in the criminal-justice system.

As a former federal prosecutor, I have often seen white-collar defendants receive sentences below the calculated guidelines range. This practice sends a terrible message that wealthy and powerful defendants are treated differently than other defendants. I didn’t see many drastic drops from the guidelines in sentences for indigent defendants.

During his sentencing hearing, the closest Manafort came to contrition was saying that he felt shame and suggesting he had already been punished. This is a common trope from white-collar crime defendants, who suggest that they don’t need to go to prison because their loss of income and status in the community is punishment enough. They submit letters of support that their expensive lawyers have billed many hours gathering from prominent people to praise their good works.

Indigent defendants, on the other hand, don’t receive leniency because they have suffered harm to their status in their community. Their overworked court-appointed lawyers don’t have the resources to collect letters, nor do the defendants know the kinds of prominent people who might persuade a judge to impose a lower sentence. We fill our prisons for lengthy periods of incarceration with disadvantaged people with few economic opportunities, but defendants whose crimes are motivated by nothing more than greed are the ones who get a break. The sentence imposed by Judge Ellis appears to reflect that tendency.


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