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The Crime Report
March 22, 2019

Want a Lighter Sentence? Hope for the Right Judge
By CRS Staff

A new analysis by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University found that prison terms handed down by judges in half the 155 federal courthouses across the country could differ by at least 23 months and, in some 66 of the courtrooms, by as much as four years or more. The study of federal sentencing decisions between 2014-2018 was prompted by questions following the disparate sentences given former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort in two different federal district courts. On Aug. 21, Manafort was convicted of eight counts related to tax fraud, bank fraud and failure to disclose a foreign bank account. On March 7, he was sentenced to 47 months in prison by Judge Thomas Selby Ellis III in federal court in Virginia—setting off a firestorm of complaints that he had gotten off relatively lightly for crimes that could have landed him up to 25 years behind bars. TRAC’s analysis of court records in the Alexandria, Va, courthouse showed there was more than a 12-month difference among judges in the average prison sentences they handed down. Ellis’ sentencing record also showed that, when compared to his colleagues on the same bench, he tended to hand down longer prison terms — except in white collar cases, where Ellis awarded the lowest average among his colleagues.

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, Syracuse University
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