Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. along with lawmakers, are speaking out against Manafort’s short prison sentence. A Black woman currently serving time in federal prison slams “the disparity in the ‘justice’ system.”
The unexpectedly short prison sentence given to President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort for his crimes highlights the racial and economic disparities in the criminal justice system.
U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis sentenced Manafort on Thursday to 47 months in prison on eight counts of bank and tax fraud. He received far less prison time than federal sentencing guidelines recommended — between 19 1/2 and 24 years. Ellis said that amount of time was “unwarranted” and “excessive” adding Manafort “lived an otherwise blameless life.”
Compared to sentences handed down for other non-violent offenses, many are saying he got off easy. It also brings to light the harsh mandatory minimum sentencing laws that disproportionately affect people of color.
Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. said on Twitter that Manafort’s sentencing is “rich white man justice”:
Manafort gets a slap on wrist. That’s called “rich white man justice” while poor black and brown kids in Cook County Jail await trial for years because they can’t afford $500 in bail. Shame, shame, shame on American justice! pic.twitter.com/dPRXMgy5UV
— Rev Jesse Jackson Sr (@RevJJackson) March 8, 2019
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said that “our current system is broken”:
Paul Manafort getting such little jail time for such serious crimes lays out for the world how it’s almost impossible for rich people to go to jail for the same amount of time as someone who is lower income.
In our current broken system, “justice” isn’t blind. It’s bought. https://t.co/1UgBXmR8bl
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) March 8, 2019
Scott Hechinger, a public defender in Brooklyn, N.Y., offered an eye-opening comparison:
For context on Manafort’s 47 months in prison, my client yesterday was offered 36-72 months in prison for stealing $100 worth of quarters from a residential laundry room.
— Scott Hechinger (@ScottHech) March 8, 2019
Crystal Mason, a Black woman, received a five-year sentence to federal prison in Fort Worth, Texas last year for mistakenly voting illegally, she said. When Mason found out how much time Manafort would serve for his crimes, she pointed out the disparity in sentencing.
“One of the main things the judge said was ‘the guidelines are excessive.’ Unfortunately for those of us who can’t hire a million dollar attorney, nobody seems to believe our guidelines are ‘excessive.’ Thus the disparity in the ‘justice’ system,” she wrote in an email to The Huffington Post.
Mason was convicted of casting a provisional ballot in the 2016 presidential election when she was on supervised release for a 2011 tax fraud conviction. She said no one ever told her she was not allowed to vote under Texas law.
“I attempted to vote in November 2016 under the impression I had a voice, unaware that my voice had been taken away from me to cast a vote,” she wrote on a GoFundMe page. “I would never intentionally jeopardize my freedom just to vote. A mistake I made due to lack of understanding.”
She said in the email, “What I would like is for Trump to review my situation and pardon me.”
Non-Violent Marijuana Offenses
Last month, Patrick Beadle, a 46-year-old Black man, was sentenced to 12 years in Mississippi for medical marijuana he bought legally in another state.
Fate Vincent Winslow, a Black man, is currently serving a life sentence in the infamous Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola after selling marijuana.
Detailed in the Daily Beast’s article, “Life in Prison for Selling $20 of Weed,” in 2008, Winslow was homeless and hungry and wanted something to eat. So, he played the middle-man in marijuana transaction. He wound up selling two dime bags, worth $10 each, to an undercover cop.
“Perdue,” the dealer, who was white, was never arrested, even though he had the $20 in his possession. Winslow’s prior convictions, all non-violent felonies, subjected him to Louisiana’s harsh habitual offender laws. He received mandatory life without parole. Louisiana is one of the states that has the highest number of prisoners serving life without parole for nonviolent crimes.
Presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) tweeted:
Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, commits bank and tax fraud and gets 47 months. A homeless man, Fate Winslow, helped sell $20 of pot and got life in prison. The words above the Supreme Court say “Equal Justice Under Law”—when will we start acting like it?
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) March 8, 2019
“Paul Manafort: $55 million in bank and tax fraud — given 47 months,” Rep. Barbara Lee tweeted. “Fate Vincent Winslow: sold $20 of marijuana — given LIFE IN PRISON. Marijuana charges regularly net longer sentences than Manafort—we need #MarijuanaJustice to fix our broken system.”
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) tweeted that Manafort got a “slap on the wrist” compared to prison sentences given to people of color.
The failed war on drugs has devastated communities of color.
So-called law and order policies have unnecessarily wrecked millions of lives.
But a degenerate criminal like Paul Manafort gets a judicial slap on the wrist?
— Hakeem Jeffries (@RepJeffries) March 9, 2019
Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe said on “Face the Nation” Sunday morning that he was “shocked” by Manafort’s sentence.
“I think it’s an incredibly lenient sentence in light not just of the offenses he was convicted for, but the additional offenses that he has pled guilty to in D.C. and the offenses he’s acknowledged, essentially, in the sentencing process in Virginia that he is responsible for,” McCabe said. “So, like most people I was shocked by how lenient the sentence was.”
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson will decide Wednesday, at a second hearing on conspiracy charges, if Manafort will receive any additional prison time. He has pleaded guilty to two felonies in that case, each of which carries a maximum sentence of five years.