A federal judge on Thursday sentenced Paul Manafort to nearly four years in federal prison for financial crimes in the first of two sentencing hearings for the onetime Trump campaign chairman, a term substantially less than prosecutors sought.
U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis’ decision came more than a year after special counsel Robert Mueller secured an 18-count indictment against Manafort on charges related to tax and bank fraud. During Thursday's sentencing hearing, the judge said Manafort should receive credit for his time already served, meaning he will serve just over three more years.
"I want him to receive credit for the nine months," Ellis said in the courtroom.
The Virginia-based jury found Manafort, 69, guilty on eight of those counts after a lengthy trial in Aug. 2018, setting the stage for the hefty upcoming prison term.
In a flurry of court documents filed over the past month, special counsel prosecutors and Manafort’s defense team sparred over what penalty would be appropriate for his crimes.
The special counsel's office advocated for a lengthy prison term in line with the findings of an independent pre-sentencing report, which calculated that Manafort's crimes called for a prison sentence of up to 25 years. In response, defense counsel for Manafort sought a term "substantially below" sentencing guidelines, citing their client's age and health.
Ellis said Thursday he found those sentencing guidelines "excessive" and "quite high."
The judge said Manafort lived an otherwise "blameless life" and earned the admiration of a number of people.
"Of course that can’t erase criminal activity," Ellis said, "but those factors should be taken into account."
Arriving at court Thursday afternoon, a wheelchair-bound Manafort donned a green jumpsuit with a cane in hand. He managed to stand up under his own weight when the judge entered the courtroom.
Nearly three hours into his sentencing hearing, Manafort made a direct pitch to Ellis to show “compassion” in his sentence and sought to describe the burden his actions have taken on his family.
"My life -- personally and professionally -- is in shambles ... The last two years have been most difficult my family has experienced," he said. "This is an ordeal I am responsible for ... I ask for your compassion."
As they left court Thursday evening, Manafort's attorney Kevin Downing said, "As you heard in court today Mr. Manafort finally got to speak for himself and made clear he accepts responsibility for his conduct and I think most importantly what you saw today is the same thing we had said from day one. There is absolutely no evidence that Paul Manafort was involved in any collusion with any government official or Russia."
Special counsel spokesman Peter Carr declined to comment on Manafort’s sentence.
Despite Ellis' decision, Manafort's legal travails are far from over. He faces another sentencing next week in Washington. He pleaded guilty to those additional federal charges brought by the special counsel’s office in Sept. 2018.
Manafort, a longtime lobbyist and Republican political operative, led Trump's campaign for five months, from May to Aug. 2016.
Now that he has been sentenced to prison, Manafort's former boss could be his saving grace. In November, Trump told the New York Post that though a pardon for Manafort had never been discussed, he "wouldn't take it off the table."
ABC News' Jack Date contributed to this report.