Ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort released from prison amid coronavirus pandemic

Ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort released from prison amid coronavirus pandemic

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort has been released from prison and is now in home confinement as the coronavirus pandemic spreads in the federal corrections system.

Todd Blanche, one of Manafort's attorneys, said the 71-year-old was released Wednesday morning. Manafort is serving a combined sentence of 7 1/2 years in prison from two criminal cases that resulted from the special counsel investigation on Russia's election meddling in 2016.

Manafort was convicted in Virginia for a scheme to defraud banks and taxpayers out of millions of dollars he had amassed through illicit lobbying. He also pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges of not disclosing his lobbying work and tampering with witnesses in a related Washington, D.C., case.

Last month, Attorney General William Barr announced a plan to expedite the release of vulnerable prisoners to home confinement, as infections and fatalities mounted.

Manafort asked to be sent home:Ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort asks to serve sentence from home during coronavirus

“Given the speed with which this disease has spread through the general public, it is clear that time is of the essence,” Barr said then.

Barr asked Bureau of Prison officials to grant home confinement based on factors including prisoners' age and vulnerability to COVID-19, their conduct in prison, and the crimes of which they were convicted.

His attorneys asked prison officials to release Manafort to home confinement, saying his old age and health conditions put him at "high risk" of a COVID-19 infection.

"It is imperative that Mr. Manafort be transferred to home confinement immediately in order to minimize the likelihood of Mr. Manafort contracting or spreading the potentially fatal disease," attorney Kevin Downing wrote.

Manafort’s attorneys said their client would serve his confinement with his wife in a three-bedroom apartment in Northern Virginia. Transferring Manafort there "will not increase – and would likely decrease – his risk of contracting the potentially fatal disease," they said. They said Manafort – who was forced to surrender assets estimated to be worth more than $20 million because of his crimes – would be "able to support himself financially during home confinement."

Manafort suffers numerous health conditions that could make him more vulnerable to the coronavirus, including high blood pressure, liver disease and respiratory illness, his attorneys said. He takes 11 daily prescriptions to treat those conditions. The lawyers said he was hospitalized for a heart condition in December and had the flu and bronchitis in February.

Manafort, who has been imprisoned since June 2018, has served about a quarter of his sentence and was scheduled for release in November 2024.

Since late March, 2,471 inmates have been designated for home confinement, the Bureau of Prisons said.

As of Wednesday, 2,818 inmates and 262 staffers have been infected with COVID-19 across the federal prison system. Fifty inmates have died. The pandemic has not reached the low-security prison in Loretto, Pennsylvania, where Manafort was held. His attorneys said it's only a matter of time before the infection spreads in the facility.

Manafort is one of a half a dozen former Trump aides and associates who either pleaded guilty or were convicted of crimes as a result of former special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson suspended a jail sentence for Manafort's former partner, Rick Gates, noting the coronavirus threat. Gates, a former Trump campaign aide who pleaded guilty to conspiracy and making false statements about his status as a foreign agent, received a 45-day jail sentence that he must serve intermittently over three years of probation.

“The gravity of the virus and its potential impact on Mrs. Gates are substantial,” Gates’ lawyers argued in the request to ease Gates' jail sentence. “If Mr. Gates were to return to his home carrying the virus, it could create serious ramifications for his wife. Due to her cancer treatment, her immune system is compromised, placing her at heightened risk for serious side effects or worse if she were to be infected with the coronavirus.”

Source: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2020/05/13/coronavirus-paul-manafort-released-home-confinement-amid-covid-19/5181984002/

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