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Manafort Sentencing Set for February; Comes to Court in Wheelchair

Attorney for Paul Manafort, Kevin Downing, walks into a hotel near federal court before a hearing in the criminal case against the former Trump campaign chairman, in Alexandria, Va., Oct. 19, 2018.

A judge has set a February sentencing date for Paul Manafort, who appeared in court Friday for a post-trial hearing in a wheelchair and green jail jumpsuit.

The hearing in federal court in Alexandria was largely procedural, but provided the first glimpse of the former Trump campaign chairman since he began cooperating with prosecutors in special counsel Robert Mueller’s office. It also resolved the outstanding question of whether Manafort would be sentenced before he had finished cooperating.

A federal jury convicted Manafort earlier this year on eight counts of tax and bank fraud. The jury deadlocked on 10 other counts, with a lone juror holding out for a not-guilty verdict.

The jury found that Manafort hid from the IRS millions of dollars he earned advising Ukrainian politicians. Then, when the Ukrainian money dried up, they found that he defrauded banks on loan applications by lying about his income.

Plea deal struck

After his convictions, Manafort struck a plea deal on separate charges in the District of Columbia. The plea deal requires him to cooperate with the special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Prosecutors had wanted to wait until Manafort’s cooperation was complete before proceeding to sentencing, where he could face as many as 10 years on the Virginia charges.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III, though, expressed concern about waiting too long to schedule a sentencing hearing. The Eastern District of Virginia, known as the Rocket Docket, has a reputation of moving cases along quickly. The more typical procedure in the district is to proceed with sentencing. Then, at a later date, prosecutors can file what’s called a Rule 35 motion that would seek a reduced sentence to reward him for any cooperation.

Prosecutors and Manafort’s lawyers agreed that would be acceptable, and Ellis set the Feb. 8 sentencing date. Also, as expected, he dismissed the remaining 10 counts against Manafort, again with prosecutors’ acquiescence. Ellis’ dismissal of the counts does not preclude prosecutors from refiling them at a later date if they choose.

Manafort in wheelchair

Manafort looked frail and had a foot elevated in a sock as he was wheeled in and out of court wearing a jumpsuit that read “ALEXANDRIA INMATE” on the back.

Manafort’s lawyer Kevin Downing said his 69-year-old client was dealing with “significant issues” with his health as a result of his incarceration but declined to elaborate.

Manafort, whose penchant for expensive suits came into focus during his trial earlier this year, had requested that he be allowed to appear in court in civilian clothes, but Ellis denied the request, saying Manafort should be treated like any other inmate.

Tax returns released

Also Friday, special counsel prosecutors and Manafort’s attorneys released several years of Manafort’s tax returns.

The document release comes after The Associated Press requested access to the documents and an attorney acting for the AP and other news outlets got involved.

The documents were admitted into evidence during Manafort’s trial and several portions were read aloud, but Mueller’s office had withheld them.

Prosecutors say Manafort falsified the documents, leaving off millions in income.