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Cohen gets 3 years, says Trump's 'dirty deeds' led him to 'choose darkness'
Cohen gets 3 years, says Trump's 'dirty deeds' led him to 'choose darkness'

Cohen gets 3 years, says Trump's 'dirty deeds' led him to 'choose darkness'

NBC News
December 12, 2018


An emotional Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former lawyer and fixer, was sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison after pleading guilty to nine federal charges stemming from his failure to report millions of dollars in income and making secret payments to women who claimed they had affairs with Trump.

One of the charges, lying to Congress about his dealings concerning a proposed Trump Tower in Moscow, stemmed from special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into the Trump campaign's potential collusion with Russia in the 2016 election.

Standing before Judge William Pauley, Cohen, 52, who came to the Manhattan courtroom with his wife and two children, said blind loyalty to Trump led him to "choose darkness over light." He said that he will work to prove history wrong and that he is not the villain in this investigation.

"Recently the president tweeted a statement calling me weak and it was correct, but for a much different reason than he was implying. It was because time and time again I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds," Cohen said.

He appeared to tear up as he apologized to his family and to the people of the United States.

"I am truly sorry and I promise I will be better," he said.

Pauley sentenced Cohen to 36 months for the eight charges from the Southern District of New York and an additional two months for the Mueller charge, which will run concurrently. The judge added a $50,000 fine and said Cohen must turn himself in on March 6.

Cohen's lawyers had previously argued against a prison sentence, citing his cooperation with Mueller. The special counsel's office last week said it took no position on Cohen's sentence but suggested it run concurrently with one handed down in the New York case. A prosecutor on Mueller's team told the judge that Cohen had been helpful but declined to offer further details because the investigation is ongoing.

A sentencing memo filed by Mueller's office said Cohen had provided federal investigators with "relevant and useful" information about his contacts with people connected to Trump and the White House.

Mueller's office also described how Cohen gave them detailed information on efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow at the height of the 2016 presidential campaign and told them about Russian nationals who tried to communicate with Trump as he was campaigning.

Cohen pleaded guilty on Nov. 29 to lying to Congress in an attempt to cover up efforts to build the Moscow tower.

His legal troubles also include a hush-payment Cohen made to adult film star Stormy Daniels for $130,000 and another to porn actress Karen McDougal for more than $25,000. Both said they had affairs with Trump before his election, something the White House denies.

Despite Cohen's cooperation with Mueller's investigation, federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York argued that he did not confess everything he knew.

In a separate sentencing memo on the eight charges he pleaded guilty to in August, prosecutors said Cohen's assistance didn't outweigh his "extensive" criminal conduct and pushed for a sentence of 51 to 63 months in jail, the usual federal sentence for his crimes. The sentencing guidelines also called for a term of up to six months in prison for the charge stemming from the Mueller probe.

"After cheating the IRS for years, lying to banks and to Congress, and seeking to criminally influence the Presidential election, Cohen's decision to plead guilty – rather than seek a pardon for his manifold crimes – does not make him a hero," prosecutors said.

Cohen's lawyer, Guy Petrillo, told the judge on Wednesday that he is "a very good man" who came forward with evidence against the most powerful man in the United States without knowing what the result would be and that others should take courage from this and his cooperation and that it stands in contrast to others who did not cooperate.

After the sentencing, another Cohen lawyer, Lanny Davis, promised that his client would release everything he knows about the president once Mueller completes his investigation.

"That includes any appropriate congressional committee interested in the search for truth and the difference between facts and lies. Mr. Trumps repeated lies cannot contradict stubborn facts," Davis said in a statement.

Davis later in a phone interview compared Cohen to Richard Nixon's former White House Counsel John Dean, who helped investigators unravel the Watergate cover-up.

"It's just beginning," he told NBC News.

The charges Cohen pleaded guilty to:

Charges brought by the Southern District:

Count 1-5: Evasion of assessment of income tax liability for pleading guilty to failing to report more than $4 million in income from 2012 through 2016.

Counts 6: False statements to a bank for Cohen pleading guilty to understating debt from his taxi medallion business in the process of applying for a home equity line of credit with a bank.

Count 7: Causing an unlawful corporation contribution for when he pleaded guilty to orchestrating a payment made by American Media to Karen McDougal for her "limited life story", an allegation that she had an affair with Donald Trump.

Count 8: Excessive campaign contribution for when he pleaded guilty to making an excessive political contribution when he paid adult film actress Stephanie Clifford aka Stormy Daniels $130,000 for her story and silence about Clifford's alleged affair with Donald Trump.

Charge brought by Robert Mueller

Count 1: False statements to Congress for when Cohen pleaded guilty to making false statements to Congress on Aug. 28, 2017, when he sent a two-page letter to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence as well as during testimony before Congress.


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