The president’s former personal lawyer tells judge he’s lived in ‘personal and mental incarceration’ since working for Trump.
NEW YORK — A federal judge on Wednesday sentenced President Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen to three years in prison for financial crimes and lying to Congress, as the disgraced former “fixer” apologized for his conduct but also said he felt it was his duty to cover up the “dirty deeds” of his former boss.
Cohen made an emotional, teary apology to U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III, taking responsibility for crimes that included tax violations, lying to a bank, and buying the silence during the 2016 campaign of women who alleged affairs with the future president.
“My weakness could be characterized as a blind loyalty to Donald Trump,” Cohen told the packed courtroom. He stood at a podium, sniffling and fighting back tears as he spoke, and paused occasionally to regain his composure.
The judge also ordered Cohen to pay nearly $2 million in financial penalties.
Pauley said Cohen’s sentence should reflect the competing interests of his case — punishing those who repeatedly break the law, and rewarding those who cooperate and provide truthful testimony.
“Our democratic institutions depend upon the honesty of our citizenry in dealing with the government,” Pauley said, calling Cohen’s crimes serious, particularly given his profession.
“As a lawyer, Mr. Cohen should have known better. Tax evasion undercuts the government’s ability to provide essential services upon which we all depend,” the judge said. “While Mr. Cohen is taking steps to mitigate his criminal conduct by pleading guilty and volunteering useful information to prosecutors, that does not wipe the slate clean.
“Mr. Cohen selected the information he disclosed to the government. This court cannot agree with the defendant’s assertion that no jail time is warranted. In fact this court firmly believes that a significant term of imprisonment is fully justified in this highly publicized case to send a message,” the judge said.
Trump made no immediate statements following the sentencing.
Cohen pleaded guilty in two separate cases. One was brought by Robert S. Mueller III, who is investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, over Cohen’s lies to Congress. The other was brought by federal prosecutors in New York over tax and bank fraud allegations and campaign finance violations.
In his emotional appeal for leniency, Cohen denounced what he called his own weakness in the service of his former boss, the president.
“I stand before your honor humbly and painfully aware that we are here today for one reason, because of my actions that I pled guilty to,” Cohen said. “I take full responsibility for each act that I pled guilty to, the personal ones to me and those involving the president of the United States of America.
Cohen said there was a deep irony about his sentencing, because he felt that he was finally getting free from Trump. “Today is the day I am getting my freedom back as you sit at the bench and contemplate my fate,” he said. “I have been living in a personal and mental incarceration ever since the fateful day that I accepted the offer to work for a famous real estate mogul whose business acumen I truly admired. In fact I now know there is little to be admired.”
Cohen cited a recent tweet from the president calling Cohen “weak” for cooperating, and said the president was right, but not in the way he meant.
“It was my own weakness and a blind loyalty to this man that led me to choose a path of darkness over light,” he said. “Time and time again I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds.”
Cohen was joined in court by his wife and children. Upon leaving, he strode past a bank of television cameras, ignoring a microphone stand that had been set up, and departed in a black SUV. Moments later, Michael Avenatti, the lawyer of one of the women Cohen arranged to be paid hush money, told reporters Cohen “deserved every day of the 36 month sentence” he received.
“Michael Cohen was sentenced today,” Avenatti said. “Donald Trump is next.”
In a court filing asking for no jail time, Cohen’s lawyers wrote that their client’s misdeeds were a product of his “fierce loyalty” to Trump and put the wrongdoing squarely at the feet of the president and his close advisers.
Cohen’s lawyer, Guy Petrillo, urged the judge to be lenient in light of what he called Cohen’s courage and “the remarkable nature and significance” of his decision to cooperate against Trump.
“He knew that the president might shut down the investigation . . . He came forward to offer evidence against the most powerful person in our country,” said Petrillo. He did so not knowing what the result would be, not knowing how the politics would play out, not knowing if the special counsel would even survive.”
As a result, Petrillo said, Cohen and his family have faced public outrage and… Continue: Michael Cohen sentenced to three years in prison for crimes committed while working for Trump