Paul Manafort, who faced up to 24 years in prison under federal guidelines, received a light slap on the wrist when he was sentenced Thursday afternoon. The sentence of fewer than five years — presumably in Club Fed — for the president’s crony prompted outrage across social media, with many users contrasting Manafort’s punishment with the excessive prison sentence for Crystal Mason, a Black woman who was only guilty of making an unfortunate mistake.
Manafort, who served as Donald Trump’s campaign chairman, was sentenced to 47 months in prison for cheating on his taxes and bank fraud. Adding insult to injury for those who were looking to see justice served, Manafort could still receive a pardon from the president. His conviction stemmed from Special Counsel Robert Mueller‘s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
A good deal of the outrage over the sentencing stemmed from U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis expressing some sympathy for the 69-year-old Republican operative and consultant who has political roots in the highest levels of politics, which includes working for the presidential campaigns of Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan.
“He’s lived an otherwise blameless life,” Ellis said of Manafort’s offenses, adding that he’s “earned the admiration of a number of people.”
Mason, on the other hand, received no such judicial compassion when she was convicted and sent to prison in Texas for unknowingly casting a ballot illegally.
Mason, a mother of three, was sentenced twice: once for violating state law and once for violating federal law. First, she was sentenced in March 2018 to serve five years in prison for violating Texas’ voter laws. As a former convict at the time, she was ineligible to vote under state regulations. By casting a ballot in the November 2016 election, she was in violation of a law that many people, let alone ex-convicts are unaware of.
That state voter fraud conviction led to a federal judge giving Mason the second sentence to prison plus probation for violating the terms of her supervised release from federal prison for tax fraud.
Manafort was one of the 34 people and three companies that Mueller has criminally charged, so far, as a result of the probe into “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump” and “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.”
There’s still another chance that Manafort could get a longer sentence that many people say he deserves. He faces another judge next week in the case in D.C., in which he could be handed a prison term of up to 10 years.
Still, Manafort apparently has a get out of jail free card up sleeves, thanks to President Trump.
Here’s how Twitter is responding to all this.