Lobbyist who funneled foreign money to Trump's inaugural fund asks for no jail time

PHOTO: Sam Patten, a former associate of Paul Manafort, leaves U.S. District Court, Aug. 31, 2018, in Washington, DC.PlayWin Mcnamee/Getty Images, FILE
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Sam Patten, a veteran Republican lobbyist accused of illegally funneling foreign money into the Trump inaugural fund, is seeking no jail time after pleading guilty last year to foreign lobbying violations in a case referred to federal prosecutors by special counsel Robert Mueller, according to a new court filing.

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Patten, 47, pleaded guilty in August for acting as an "agent of a foreign principal … without registering under the Department of Justice's Foreign Agent Registration Act,” related to his work on behalf of a Ukrainian political party.

As part of his plea deal, Patten acknowledged accepting $50,000 to secure tickets to President Donald Trump’s inauguration in January 2017 for a Ukrainian client through a "straw" purchaser, circumventing rules about the inauguration committee accepting money from foreigners. Patten also admitted to lying to the Senate Intelligence Committee during its investigation into Russian election interference. Patten has since been cooperating with investigators.

On Monday, Patten's lawyers wrote in a sentencing memo submitted on Monday that their client "simply did not think long enough or clearly enough about the significance of his decision at the time he made it."

"In Mr. Patten’s mind, these were tickets to a post-election party and not an attempt to influence an election or politician," Patten's lawyers wrote. "More importantly, he was blinded by a desire to accommodate his client."

Patten's lawyers asked for a sentence of probation to including community service, instead of the maximum of five years of imprisonment and $250,000 fine Patten could face.

Patten also sought to distance himself from Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, with whom he worked in Ukraine and shared clients. Manafort last year was convicted of a slew of financial crime charges largely related to his unregistered lobbying work in Ukraine.

"Through it all, even in the face of media reporting that has falsely labeled Mr. Patten a lobbyist, or a Manafort's 'associate,' or a Trump-supporter, as well as the personal attacks and death threats he has received, Mr. Patten has quietly and without fanfare or attention, worked to improve himself and to make sure he understands what led him to act in a manner inconsistent with his own principles and character," his lawyers wrote.

The government, in response to Patten's defense, said prosecutors are seeking a "downward departure" in Patten's sentencing due to his extensive "cooperation and the substantial assistance he has provided to the government."

"Patten began cooperating with the Special Counsel’s Office shortly after being contacted by investigators, and well before his guilty plea,” prosecutors wrote Monday."

ABC News has reported previously on the interest by federal investigators in the foreign guests at the inaugural event, and possible contributions by foreign nationals. Among those who attended were Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, who is now on the Treasury Department list of sanctioned oligarchs.

Prosecutors in in the Southern District of New York have also been looking into the president's inaugural committee, seeking information related to the committee's donors and attendees to the events surrounding the inauguration, including benefits to top-level donors such as photo opportunities with Trump.