Paul Manafort released to home confinement over virus fears
Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was released from prison to home confinement as part of an effort to protect inmates from the coronavirus, according to his lawyer, Kevin Downing. Manafort, 71, left a low-security prison in Loretto, Pennsylvania, and headed to his home in northern Virginia after requesting that the Bureau of Prisons release him for the remainder of his 7½ year sentence. Since late March, at least 2,471 of 169,000 federal inmates have been released to home confinement.
Manafort’s wife and another family member picked him up at 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday.
“He’s going home,” Downing said. “He’s doing OK. He didn’t get the virus, so that’s good.”
Manafort was convicted of financial crimes and illegal lobbying. His release came six days after Attorney General William Barr moved to dismiss the prosecution of President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents before deciding to try to withdraw his plea. A federal judge in Washington said Tuesday he would accept friend-of-the-court briefs in response to the dismissal request from Barr’s Justice Department.
Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer who helped prosecutors investigate the president, is also seeking a release from the federal prison in Otisville, New York. Cohen, who pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations and obstructing a congressional investigation, was told he would be released last week but wasn’t, his lawyers said.
While Trump has tweeted favorably about Manafort, he has lashed out at Cohen, calling him a “rat” for cooperating with federal prosecutors.
Michael Avenatti, a lawyer who represented adult film actress Stormy Daniels in a lawsuit against Trump before being convicted of trying to extort millions of dollars from Nike Inc., was released from jail in Manhattan because of the pandemic. The 49-year-old lawyer, citing health problems of his own, is in home confinement in California awaiting two other criminal trials.
The Justice Department is releasing certain inmates, including non-violent white-collar criminals, to slow the spread of the coronavirus. In an April 3 memo, Barr cited the pandemic and said a broader swath of inmates should be considered, urging prison officials to prioritize vulnerable inmates.
Manafort fits that definition, according to his legal team. He takes 11 medications daily and suffers from high blood pressure, liver disease and respiratory ailments, according to an April 13 letter that Downing sent to the Bureau of Prisons director and the warden at FCI Loretto. Manafort was hospitalized for several days in December because of a heart condition and contracted bronchitis and influenza in February.
Manafort is at high risk from severe Covid-19 illness and was eligible for immediate transfer because he began a quarantine at the prison on March 30, Downing wrote in mid-April. “This will give him an opportunity to have a strong recovery,” Downing said Wednesday.Manafort was the highest-profile figure to have been charged and convicted as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian attempts to interfere in the 2016 election.
Before being tapped by the Trump campaign in early 2016, Manafort had spent more than a decade doing lucrative political consulting work for Ukrainian politicians who were aligned with the Kremlin. Manafort quit the campaign that August, after reports that he had accepted millions in cash payments from Ukraine’s former ruling party.
Manafort had already drawn the interest of federal prosecutors during 2016, but after Mueller was appointed in 2017, he became one of the special counsel’s prime targets.
Manafort was convicted by jurors in 2018 of tax fraud, bank fraud and failure to disclose a foreign bank account after prosecutors said he’d hid $55 million in offshore accounts and failed to pay $6 million in taxes. He avoided a second trial in Washington by pleading guilty to conspiracy counts involving witness tampering, money laundering and tax evasion.
Manafort’s release was reported earlier by ABC News.