‘I took a path of darkness instead of light’: President’s former lawyer Michael Cohen tearfully lays the blame for his fraud and lies on ‘blind loyalty’ to cover up the ‘dirty deeds’ of Donald Trump, as he is jailed for THRE
- Cohen wept in federal court in Manhattan as he faced sentencing on nine criminal charges
- He must report to jail in upstate New York on March 6
- A tearful Cohen pushed back at President Trump for calling him ‘weak’
- His lawyer repeatedly invoked Trump while arguing against a long sentence
- He went to court Wednesday morning accompanied by his wife and children
- The Southern District of New York in a court filing said he deserved a ‘substantial’ sentence and proposed he face up to five years in jail
- Special Counsel Mueller’s team noted his cooperation with the Russia probe
- He pleaded guilty to making false statements to Congress about his 2016 pursuit of a Trump tower deal in Moscow and contacts with Russians about it
- Also pleaded guilty to campaign finance and bank fraud related to $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels
- Testified he was ‘directed’ by Donald Trump to make payment to Daniels
- Cohen once said he would ‘take a bullet’ for Trump but ended up cooperating facing jail time and massive legal fees
- Story Daniels lawyer Michael Avenatti showed up for sentencing and said Cohen ‘deserves every day’ of his sentence
A federal judge on Thursday sentenced longtime Donald Trump lawyer Michael Cohen to three years in jail for a series of crimes to which he pleaded guilty, saying his cooperation with the Russia probe ‘does not wipe the slate clean.’
Cohen, a lawyer, ‘should have known better,’ said the judge, following dramatic courtroomarguments that featured repeated references to President Trump – including his attacks on Cohen as ‘weak’ and a ‘rat’ and Cohen’s own explanation of why he decided to provide information against him.
Cohen, shed tears in the courtroom as he sought leniency and reflected on decisions in his life that he now regrets, including his own ‘blind loyalty’ to Trump, a man who helped make him rich and later ‘directed’ into engaging in one of the crimes he pleaded guilty to committing.
Cohen won’t have to report to jail until March 6, and could still get a further discount to his time if he cooperates.
An anguished Cohen pleaded with a Judge William Pauley to be able to stay out of jail, and expressed regret for trying to cover up former employer Donald Trump’s ‘dirty deeds.’
He also will have to hand over to the government nearly $2 million in combined restitution and fines, having dodged taxes while assembling real estate and taxi business holdings as a top hand to the Trump Organization.
He must report to the federal prison in Otisville, New York, which has a medium security prison as well as a minimum security satellite camp and which caters to many Jewish inmates from New York City and those with Kosher needs.
The tearful longtime Donald Trump lawyer took on Trump – who he once said he would ‘take a bullet for’ – in emotional terms for having called him ‘weak’ in an attack last month.
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Michael Cohen and his family leave their Trump Park Avenue Apartment in New York City and head down to court as he faced sentencing Wednesday
‘Recently the president tweeted a statement calling me weak and it was correct, but for a much different reason than he was implying,’ Cohen told a federal judge in open court. ‘It was because time and time again I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds,’ Cohen said.
He blasted President Trump for ‘calling me a rat,’ and criticized his longtime employer for trying to sway a proceeding that could in fact ‘implicate’ him.
‘I will continue to cooperate’ with investigators, Cohen said
But after the judge handed down the sentence, Cohen walked past reporters outside the federal courthouse and entered a vehicle without comment.
Cohen headed to federal court in New York Wednesday to face sentencing after prosecutors in New York recommended he get ‘substantial’ jail time – as his attorney lauded his willingness to testify against the president.
Cohen leaves a federal courthouse in New York after getting a three-year sentence
Cohen family members leave a federal courthouse following sentencing
A tearful Cohen pleaded for leniencey
Cohen and lawyer Guy Petrillo argued for a reduced sentenced due to his cooperation with the Mueller probe
In a courtroom plea for leniency, Cohen’s lawyer, Guy Petrillo, described his client as a brave witness who came forward with evidence ‘against the most powerful person in our country’ – and tried to draw a contrast with former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, who prosecutors say committed ‘lies’ despite agreeing to cooperate.
He did so without being able to ‘anticipate the full measure of attack that would be made against him,’ his lawyer argued.
Petrillo called it a ‘profound contrast’ with others who decided to allegedly ‘double deal,’ CNN reported.
‘He knew that the president might shut down the investigation,’ Petrillo said, Courthouse News reported.
His lawyers also pushed back at SDNY, which in its sentencing memo pointed out that Cohen never reached a cooperation agreement.
FEDERAL PRISON IN OTISVILLE, NEW YORK
Judge William Pauley sentenced Michael Cohen to serve his three-year sentence is located in Otisville, New York and has both a medium security prison and minimum-security camp – and both are sought after by inmates.
The facility has a full-time Jewish chaplain, and offers kosher meals, Passover seders. It has a large number of inmates who like Cohen are Jewish.
The federal prison located upstate in Orange County will allow for reasonably convenient visits by Cohen’s family. Cohen cited brought his wife and children to court with him, and cited them in his courtroom speech describing why he sought quick sentencing and did not take a formal cooperation agreement.
The location will also allow for ease of contact with federal prosecutors in New York. Cohen stated in court that he will continue to cooperate with the government.
The facility is considered a desirable place to do time. “Otisville is very close to New York City, so it has more access to a Jewish population, to rabbis, and to kosher food,” Rabbi Menachem Katz for the Jewish-outreach Aleph Institute told New York Magazine back in 2008. “The Bureau of Prisons kind of unofficially designated it to meet the needs of Orthodox Jews,’ he said.
It is sought after by white collar criminals including Sam Waksal of ImClone.
According to the Bureau of Prisons, it has 840 inmates, with 722 at the prison and 118 at a nearby camp. It wasn’t immediately clear which facility Cohen would go to. The camp has inmates doubled up two to a room.
In addition to kosher cooking facilities, it has Shabbat services and a Passover seders that features all the traditional accompaniments, minus the wine.
‘He is wary of a long-term cooperation agreement for personal reasons,’ saying Cohen was operating based on concerns for his family and wanting to avoid the ‘glare of the cameras.’
A person who reaches a cooperation agreement in New York is expected to answer all the government’s questions and reveal all about any criminal activity they know about.
Jeannie Rhee, representing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, said Cohen provided ‘credible’ information about ‘any links between a campaign and a foreign government’ and ‘sought to tell us the truth.’
But Rhee was circumspect, noting there was ‘only so much we can say … given our ongoing investigation.’
But there was a split between prosecutors. Federal prosecutors based in New York inveighed against Cohen trying to engage in ‘selective cooperation.’
The charges he pleaded guilty to ‘portray a pattern of deception, of brazenness and of greed,’ argued Nicolas Roos, arguing for the Southern District of New York.
Trump late last month called Cohen ‘a weak person and not a very smart person.’
Cohen is subject to forfeiture of $500,000, the amount sought by prosecutors, as well as restitution of $1.4 million and a $50,000 fine.
Cohen advisor Lanny Davis issued a statement saying: ‘Michael has owned up to his mistakes and fully cooperated with Special Counsel Mueller in his investigation over possible Trump campaign collusion with Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
‘While Mr. Mueller gave Michael significant credit for cooperation on the ‘core’ issues, it is unfortunate that SDNY prosecutors did not do the same. To me, their judgment showed a lack of appropriate proportionality,’ he added.
In a signal that Cohen has more information, Davis said he looked forward to helping Cohen speak publicly about ‘all he knows about Mr. Trump.’
Stormy Daniels attorney Michael Avenatti was on hand for sentencing, and spoke before the cameras afterwards.
‘He deserves every day of a 36 month sentence that he will serve,’ said Avenatti.
Cohen left his Park Avenue apartment in Manhattan, accompanied by his wife Laura, along with his two children, as he went to learn his fate after prosecutors in New York argued he should get a ‘substantial’ sentence.
ROBERT MUELLER’S PROBE SO FAR: EIGHT CONVICTIONS – INCLUDING THREE TOP TRUMP AIDES, A JAILED ATTORNEY AND 25 RUSSIANS ACCUSED
GUILTY: MICHAEL FLYNN
Pleaded guilty to making false statements in December 2017. Awaiting sentence
Flynn was President Trump’s former National Security Advisor and Robert Mueller’s most senior scalp to date. He previously served when he was a three star general as President Obama’s director of the Defense Intelligence Agency but was fired.
He admitted to lying to special counsel investigators about his conversations with a Russian ambassador in December 2016. He has agreed to cooperate with the special counsel investigation.
GUILTY: MICHAEL COHEN
Pleaded guilty to eight counts including fraud and two campaign finance violations in August 2018. Pleaded guilty to further count of lying to Congress in November 2018. Sentenced to three years in prison and $2 million in fines and forfeitures in December 2018.
Cohen was Trump’s longtime personal attorney, starting working for him and the Trump Organization in 2007. He is the longest-serving member of Trump’s inner circle to be implicated by Mueller. Cohen professed unswerving devotion to Trump – and organized payments to silence two women who alleged they had sex with the-then candidate: porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal. He admitted that payments to both women were felony campaign finance violations – and admitted that he acted at the ‘direction’ of ‘Candidate-1’: Donald Trump.
He also admitted tax fraud by lying about his income from loans he made, money from taxi medallions he owned, and other sources of income, at a cost to the Treasury of $1.3 million.
And he admitted lying to Congress in a rare use of the offense. The judge in his case let him report for prison on March 6 and recommended he serve it in a medium-security facility close to New York City.
GUILTY: PAUL MANAFORT
Found guilty of eight charges of bank and tax fraud in August 2018. Pleaded guilty to two further charges. Awaiting sentence
Manafort worked for Trump’s campaign from March 2016 and chaired it from June to August 2016, overseeing Trump being adopted as Republican candidate at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. He is the most senior campaign official to be implicated by Mueller. Manafort was one of Washington D.C.’s longest-term and most influential lobbyists but in 2015, his money dried up and the next year he turned to Trump for help, offering to be his campaign chairman for free – in the hope of making more money afterwards. But Mueller unwound his previous finances and discovered years of tax and bank fraud as he coined in cash from pro-Russia political parties and oligarchs in Ukraine.
Manafort pleaded not guilty to 18 charges of tax and bank fraud but was convicted of eight counts. The jury was deadlocked on the other 10 charges. A second trial on charges of failing to register as a foreign agent is due in September.
GUILTY: RICK GATES
Pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the United States and making false statements in February 2018. Awaiting sentence
Gates was Manafort’s former deputy at political consulting firm DMP International. He admitted to conspiring to defraud the U.S. government on financial activity, and to lying to investigators about a meeting Manafort had with a member of congress in 2013. As a result of his guilty plea and promise of cooperation, prosecutors vacated charges against Gates on bank fraud, bank fraud conspiracy, failure to disclose foreign bank accounts, filing false tax returns, helping prepare false tax filings, and falsely amending tax returns.
GUILTY AND WILL BE JAILED: GEORGE PAPADOPOLOUS
Pleaded guilty to making false statements in October 2017. Sentenced to 14 days in September 2018, and reported to prison in November. Served 12 days and released on December 7, 2018
Papadopoulos was a member of Donald Trump’s campaign foreign policy advisory committee. He admitted to lying to special counsel investigators about his contacts with London professor Josef Mifsud and Ivan Timofeev, the director of a Russian government-funded think tank.
He has agreed to cooperate with the special counsel investigation.
GUILTY AND JAILED: RICHARD PINEDO
Pleaded guilty to identity fraud in February 2018. Sentenced to a year in prison
Pinedo is a 28-year-old computer specialist from Santa Paula, California. He admitted to selling bank account numbers to Russian nationals over the internet that he had obtained using stolen identities.
He has agreed to cooperate with the special counsel investigation.
GUILTY AND JAILED: ALEX VAN DER ZWAAN
Pleaded guilty to making false statements in February 2018. He served a 30-day prison sentence earlier this year and was deported to the Netherlands upon his release.
Van der Zwaan is a Dutch attorney for Skadden Arps who worked on a Ukrainian political analysis report for Paul Manafort in 2012.
He admitted to lying to special counsel investigators about when he last spoke with Rick Gates and Konstantin Kilimnik.
GUILTY: W. SAMUEL PATTEN
Pleaded guilty in August 2018 to failing to register as a lobbyist while doing work for a Ukrainian political party. Awaiting sentence.
Patten, a long-time D.C. lobbyist was a business partner of Paul Manafort. He pleaded guilty to admitting to arranging an illegal $50,000 donation to Trump’s inauguration.
He arranged for an American ‘straw donor’ to pay $50,000 to the inaugural committee, knowing that it was actually for a Ukrainian businessman.
Neither the American or the Ukrainian have been named.
CHARGED: KONSTANTIN KILIMNIK
Indicted for obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice. At large.
Kilimnik is a former employee of Manafort’s political consulting firm and helped him with lobbying work in Ukraine. He is accused of witness tampering, after he allegedly contacted individuals who had worked with Manafort to remind them that Manafort only performed lobbying work for them outside of the U.S.
He has been linked to Russian intelligence and is currently thought to be in Russia – effectively beyond the reach of extradition by Mueller’s team.
INDICTED: THE RUSSIANS
Twenty-five Russian nationals and three Russian entities have been indicted for conspiracy to defraud the United States.
Two of these Russian nationals were also indicted for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and 11 were indicted for conspiracy to launder money. Fifteen of them were also indicted for identity fraud.
Vladimir Putin has ridiculed the charges. Russia effectively bars extradition of its nationals. The only prospect Mueller has of bringing any in front of a U.S. jury is if Interpol has their names on an international stop list – which is not made public – and they set foot in a territory which extradites to the U.S.
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Cohen pleaded guilty last week to a ninth charge – lying to Congress about his work on a Trump tower project in Moscow that continued through the summer of 2016, when his longtime boss was scoring primary wins in his bid to become president.
Cohen, who famously once said he would ‘take a bullet’ for President Trump, had earlier pleaded guilty to tax fraud, campaign finance violations, and falsifying bank statements while getting loans.
Cohen could get up to five years in jail, after prosecutors in the Southern District of New York wrote in a letter that the court should impose a ‘substantial term of imprisonment’ as well as a $500,000 crime.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators, however, stressed in their own memo Cohen’s extensive cooperation with their Russia probe.
The judge in the case, William Pauley, is a Bill Clinton appointee with a reputation for sternness in sentencing.
The judge’s task was to take in Cohen’s plea for leniency as well as the diverging arguments by prosecutors. SDNY in their own memo argued that Cohen’s description of his helpfulness ‘is overstated in some respects and incomplete in others.’ SNDY noted that Cohen ‘does not have a cooperation agreement … and therefore is not properly described as a ‘cooperating witness.’
Cohen, a lawyer who made his career protecting President Donald Trump, is set to learn Wednesday whether his decision to cooperate with federal investigators will lessen his punishment for crimes including making illegal hush-money payments to two women during the 2016 campaign – a scandal that could damage Trump’s presidency.
Cohen, 52, appeared at 11 a.m. at a courthouse in Manhattan for a sentencing hearing before U.S. District Judge William Pauley III.
DAY IN COURT: Michael Cohen heads to court along with his wife Laura, daughter Samantha, and son is Jake. Samantha recently had hip surgery
Michael Cohen and his family leave their Trump Park Avenue Apartment in New York City and head down to court.
Michael Cohen and his family leave their Trump Park Avenue Apartment in New York City and head down to court.
epa07226161 Michael Cohen (C), President Donald Trump’s then former personal lawyer going through security after arriving with members of his family (unseen) to his sentencing at United States Federal Court in New York, New York, USA, 12 December 2018
Cohen and his daughter Samantha head to federal court Wednesday
Under federal sentencing guidelines, he stood to get about four years in prison, but his lawyers have argued for leniency.
Some of Cohen’s crimes, they said, were motivated by overenthusiasm for Trump, rather than any nefarious intent.
He has pleaded guilty to misleading Congress about his work on a proposal to build a Trump skyscraper in Moscow, hiding the fact that he continued to speak with Russians about the proposal well into the presidential campaign.
Cohen also pleaded guilty in August to breaking campaign finance laws by helping orchestrate payments to silence former Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult film actress Stormy Daniels, who said they had sexual encounters with Trump while he was married.
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For weeks, Cohen’s legal strategy appeared to revolve around persuading the court that he is a reformed man who abandoned longtime friendships and gave up his livelihood when he decided to cut ties with the president and speak with federal investigators. Cohen’s lawyers have said in court filings that their client could have stayed on the president’s side and angled himself for a presidential pardon.
New York prosecutors have urged a judge to sentence Cohen to a substantial prison term, saying he’d failed to fully cooperate and overstated his helpfulness.
They’ve asked for only a slight reduction to his sentence based on his work with the office of special counsel Robert Mueller and prosecutors looking into the campaign finance violations in New York.
A probation-only sentence, they said, is unbefitting of ‘a man who knowingly sought to undermine core institutions of our democracy.’
‘While many Americans who desired a particular outcome to the election knocked on doors, toiled at phone banks, or found any number of other legal ways to make their voices heard, Cohen sought to influence the election from the shadows. He did so by orchestrating secret and illegal payments to silence two women who otherwise would have made public their alleged extramarital affairs’ with Trump, prosecutors wrote.
Prosecutors said Cohen orchestrated payments to McDougal and Daniels at Trump’s direction.
Trump, who insists the affairs never happened, said Monday in a tweet that the payments to the women were ‘a simple private transaction,’ not a campaign contribution. And if it was campaign contribution, the president said, Cohen is the one who should be held responsible.
‘Lawyer’s liability if he made a mistake, not me,’ Trump wrote, adding, ‘Cohen just trying to get his sentence reduced. WITCH HUNT!’
A sentence of hard time would leave Cohen with little to show for his decision to plead guilty, though experts said Wednesday’s hearing might not be the last word on his punishment.
Former Playboy model Karen McDougal (left) and porn actress Stormy Daniels (right) both claimed to have slept with Donald Trump in the past, but the government says Cohen coordinated with Trump to make sure the women were paid for their silence – in effect a pair of massive campaign contributions designed to save the election for Trump
The Michael Cohen sentencing memorandum from a federal prosecutor in New York recomments 51 to 63 months in prison
Cohen could have his sentence revisited if he strikes a deal with prosecutors in which he provides additional cooperation within a year of his sentence, said Michael J. Stern, a former federal prosecutor in Detroit and Los Angeles.
‘Few things spark a defendant’s renewed interest in cooperating faster than trading in a pair of custom Italian trousers for an off-the-rack orange jump suit,’ he said.
Annemarie McAvoy, a former federal prosecutor in Brooklyn, said prosecutors appear to be angry at Cohen for limiting his cooperation.
‘It could be a tactic to try to break him like they’ve tried to do with (Paul) Manafort,’ McAvoy said, referring to Trump’s former campaign chairman. ‘It kind of shows they’re putting the screws to him. If they’re not mad at him, he didn’t give them what they wanted.’
President Donald Trump first distanced himself from Cohen and then went after him as he cooperated with authorities
Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen should spend between 51 and 63 months in federal prison, according to a prosecutor’s memo
Cohen’s transition from Trump’s fixer-in-chief to felon has been head-spinning.
He once told an interviewer he would ‘take a bullet’ for Trump. But facing prosecution for evading $1.4 million in taxes, Cohen pleaded guilty in August, pledged to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the presidential election and changed his party registration from Republican to Democrat.
Judge Pauley, who was appointed to the federal bench by former President Bill Clinton, may allow Cohen to begin serving any prison term he receives at a later date. But legal experts said Cohen could also be taken into custody immediately.
‘If I were advising him, I’d encourage him to bring his toothbrush to court,’ said Stern.
Cohen’s lawyers have asked for no prison time, saying he has suffered enough already.
‘The greatest punishment Michael has endured in the criminal process has been the shame and anxiety he feels daily from having subjected his family to the fallout from his case,’ his attorneys wrote in a court filing last month. ‘The media glare and intrusions on all of them, including his children, the regular hate correspondence and written and oral threats, the fact that he will lose his law license, the termination of business relationships by banks and insurers and the loss of friendships, are but some of this fallout.’
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