Paul Manafort Sentence Has Started A Fire In America
When a father gets 12 years for bringing legally purchased cannabis into an illegal state, the Paul Manafort sentence should piss you off.
Paul Manafort received a combined 90 months behind bars for federal crimes, including bank and tax fraud plus conspiracy. However, he served far less time. Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance then handed out 16 more charges relating to fraud later that same day. What for? Conspiracy and falsifying business records. Seems intense, right? And worth a hefty prison sentence? Well, stay tuned on that one.
Compare this to the sentence for possession of medical cannabis in a prohibition state. This was the charge for 46-year old father, Patrick Beadle, who was given 12 years in prison (after initially receiving 40 years!!). This has sparked outrage within the cannabis community.
Many people, senators included, are angry about the perceived ‘farcical sentencing’ of Paul Manafort, former campaign manager of Donald Trump. Lawyers and politicians alike are not happy with the obvious class privilege and the treatment of the wealthy under the law. Prosecutors wanted Manafort to serve 20 years for his crimes. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a judge decided that this was “too harsh a sentence”.
Judge TS Ellis showed leniency after Manafort’s plea for mercy. His Honor found the guidelines to be “excessive” and “out of whack.” He based this on the fact that Manafort had no criminal record prior to this conviction.
Politicians and Public React With Outrage
As a result, Manafort received three years and eleven months behind bars for bank fraud. He also received an additional 7.5 years (less time served) for conspiracy. Judge Ellis acknowledged that the initial sentence would lack the approval of many. Cue the wave of anger. The outspoken Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, US Representative for New York’s 14th Congressional district, responded with a tweet: “In our current broken system, ‘justice’ isn’t blind. It’s bought.”
Activists immediately reacted to the decision. Cases of non-violent and lesser cannabis offenses led to prison for a much longer time. The above-mentioned 12-year prison sentence for simple possession of cannabis already exploded into more than 10,000 retweets.
Activists are not the only ones observing the criminal injustice balance. Some senators also joined the cause. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), tweeted about the homeless man, Fate Winslow, who helped to sell $20 of weed and got a life sentence. Paul Manafort committed bank and tax fraud, affecting millions, and got 47 months.
Kamala Harris (D-CA), current aspiring 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, relates Manafort’s sentencing to cannabis conviction in a campaign stop in South Carolina. She refers to the inequity of a man being sentenced to 12 years for cannabis offenses vs Manafort’s white-collar sentence. In her words: “Everyone should be treated equal under the law.”
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) also said that people committing a non-violent cannabis offence typically get jail time of more than 47 months.
Rep. Barbara Lee tweeted about the differentiation of the two crimes. Paul Manafort had $55 million in tax and bank fraud and he got 47 months in jail. Fate Winslow sold $20 of cannabis and got Life in Prison. She says we need #MarijuanaJustice to fix the broken system. Too often cannabis charges get longer sentences than Manafort´s white-collar crime.
Equal Justice Under the Law?
The tweets go on. Equal justice is at stake here. Paul Manafort laundered money and committed fraud and got under 4 years. A person like Patrick Beadle, a traveling musician, and father, got 12 years in Mississippi for cannabis that he legally got in Oregon!
There are many accounts of the injustice of the system.
Lawyers Speak Out About Paul Manafort Sentence
The sentence outraged many public defenders. And of course it did. Many defend underprivileged or vulnerable groups. They state that Manafort’s case is an example of the racial disparity in the US Justice System. Studies of US sentencing data show that there is a difference in sentencing black men and white men, specifically when they committed the same crime. On average, black men receive a sentence of almost 20% longer.
To bring the absurdity of Manafort’s sentence into perspective, Public Defender Scott Hechinger indicated that his client was given 36 – 72 months in prison for stealing quarters worth a $100 from a laundry room. How does that add up? In another case 3 years ago, a teenager got 19 years for setting a mattress on fire. It caused the death of a responding officer by smoke inhalation. He added that there is a vast disparity between the treatment of Manafort and others, especially those disproportionately poor and of color.
One of the strongest focus points was that of Crystal Mason, a black woman from Texas who accidentally committed voter fraud in the 2016 elections. She got five years in prison even though she expressed full remorse.
Clearly, there is a huge disparity in the justice system of the US today. And sadly, non-violent cannabis offenders continue to face the consequences of this disparity.