The special counsel has not requested a specific sentence in any criminal case it has brought. In the case before Judge Jackson, prosecutors said that Mr. Manafort had “repeatedly and brazenly” violated a host of laws and did not deserve any breaks. Even though sentencing guidelines recommended a prison term of up to 22 years, the maximum sentence was governed by the statutes, not the guidelines, and so was limited to 10 years.
The judge sentenced Mr. Manafort to five years on the first conspiracy count, but said 30 months of that would be served concurrently with the Virginia sentence because of the overlap between the two cases. On the second conspiracy count, which involved obstruction of justice, she sentenced him to 13 months, saying that his efforts to influence witnesses had “largely been nipped in the bud.”
Judge Jackson tends to be relatively lenient on convicted criminals who appear before her. In the five years that ended in 2017, she handed down an average prison sentence of just 32 months, below both the Washington district’s 46-month average and the nationwide average of 47 months, according to court data maintained by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.
But Judge Jackson has gone out of her way to make clear that being well-connected earns no chits in her court. “She knows who commits white-collar crime,” said Heather Shaner, a Washington lawyer who represented an embezzler in her court. “And she thinks it’s perfectly fine to punish them if they commit a crime and hold them to a higher standard because they have the education, and because they have the wealth.”
Six years ago, she sentenced the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Jr., the former Illinois congressman and son of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, to 30 months in prison for stealing $750,000 from his campaign to pay personal expenses. He had asked for probation. But she told him: “How would I explain a probationary sentence to those troubled youths who are locked up, who didn’t start where you started, and were not given what you were given?
“It would be read one way and one way only, as a clear statement that there are two systems of justice: one for the well-connected, and one for everyone else,” she added. “I cannot do it. I will not do it.”