Michael Cohen’s Sentencing Explained

December 13, 2018
BY:


Michael Cohen— the President’s former attorney or ‘fixer’—  has been sentenced to three years in prison. How was that arrived at? What does it mean in the real world?

Cohen Pleads Guilty

Cohen pled guilty to four criminal acts. Two were regarding his own solo crimes: tax evasion and false bank application. Two were for campaign violations: paying woman for silence concerning then-candidate Donald J. Trump.

First unusual item is that Cohen did not get a departure letter: a letter from the prosecutors to the Judge recommending leniency because of the defendant’s help. That letter can be powerful. General Michael Flynn received one from Special Counsel Robert Mueller and despite all that happened as a result all that happened, he will not go to prison for even one day.

Cohen pled guilty on his terms: no cooperation or information on his personal actions. He cooperated on the two counts of campaign violations, naming President Donald J. Trump as his principal. The Judge appears to have given him some leniency for that.

Cohen’s Sentencing

The parole authority recommended 42 months; the prosecutor around the same. The Federal Sentencing Guidelines says 48 months. The Judge sentenced Cohen to 36 months for the New York cases and two months for lying to Congress, but they are to be served concurrently, so it remains at 36. That is well below the national average for these types of crimes. I think there was a feeling by the Judge and prosecutors that Cohen was going to jail, but the other half of the team is not charged with any crime.

Note: Cohen will serve 85%, 30 months, at a minimum-security prison: “Club Fed.” State inmates can receive a two-third reduction for good behavior. Federal only gives 15%.

As a former Assistant United States Attorney in the District of New Jersey the sentence feels fair to me. However, Cohen can still go back to the Feds and offer new information for reducing his sentence— stay tuned.