George Papadopoulos gets 14 days in prison
Ex-Donald Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos has been sentenced to two weeks in prison for lying to investigators about his contact with individuals tied to Russia during the 2016 campaign.
Papadopolous will also have 12 months of supervised release, serve 200 hours of community service within about a year and will be fined $9,500.
Before he must surrender to prison, Papadopoulos may be able to travel to New York and to California, where he plans to relocate.
This is the first sentence dealt to a Trump campaign affiliate in special counsel’s Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the Trump campaign.
Papadopoulos was arrested more than a year ago and pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about his contacts with several people connected to Russia during the campaign.
For months, his significance in the special counsel’s investigation was unclear. His sentencing Friday made clear he had barely been a cooperator in the investigation, yet had serious contact with Russia’s affiliates in Europe as they tried to lure the Trump campaign.
He had discussed with those foreigners the possibility of a foreign trip where Donald Trump could meet Vladimir Putin. He had also heard from them that the Russians had “dirt,” in the form of emails, on Hillary Clinton, though he did not realize the seriousness of the stolen emails before they were released, his attorney said.
Before he was sentenced, Papadopoulos spoke to Judge Randy Moss for about three minutes, reading a speech in which he admitted he was wrong, ashamed and regretful.
“People point and snicker and I am terribly depressed,” he said. “This investigation has global implications and the truth matters.”
His attorney and the judge both emphasized how Papadopoulos had put his own ambition and the interests of Trump ahead of the needs of an investigation of national importance. “I made a terrible mistake,” Papadopoulos told the judge.
Dressed in a navy suit and navy polka dot tie, he kept his eyes closed for several minutes before the hearing began. His wife, Simona Mangiante, sat in the front row nodding as the judge addressed her husband.
Moss said he gave Papadopoulos 14 days because he researched how many defendants with this type of charge resulted in prison time — and it was fewer than half.
Moss also looked to Alex Van Der Zwaan’s sentence of 30 days in prison, and noted how Van Der Zwaan was a lawyer and expressed far less remorse to the judge at his sentencing compared to Papadopoulos.
Moss said he suspects that “just the process of having to go to prison will leave a strong impression on him for the remainder of his life.” Moss also noted how his lies were serious, and how Papadopoulos placed his own self interest and his loyalty to a candidate over his loyalty to his country.
Then speaking directly to Papadopoulos, Moss said: “I know the sentence is painful to you. I’m sure you’re wondering what comes next,” and that he was impressed by his words to the judge. “I hope you think of your sentence as the beginning of that second chance.”
The special counsel’s office had asked for up to six months in prison.
Papadopoulos’ mother Kiki, aunt Maria and father Tony spoke to CNN as they exited the hearing. Maria said that the judge “got it right” in giving Papadopoulos 14 days in prison.
“We were hoping for no jail time but two weeks is OK,” Maria Stamatopoulos said.
“It’s time to think about everything,” Kiki Papadopoulos added.
After Papadopoulos and his legal team left the courthouse in a black Chevy Suburban, his family members hung behind outside the courthouse. His mother interrupted a reporter at work to ask how to post a tweet about the afternoon’s events.
Pointing fingers at Trump
Before the sentence was read, Papadopoulos’ defense attorney, Thomas Breen, pointed fingers at Trump.
“The President of the United States hindered this investigation more than George Papadopoulos ever did,” Breen said.
Breen told a rapt courtroom that Papadopoulos has already faced his penalty over the past year, and realized he needed to disavow the Trump administration in favor of the truth.
“The message is for all of us to check our loyalty, to tell the truth, to help the good guys,” Breen said. He recalled how he and attorney Robert Stanley and Papadopoulos visited the FBI office in Chicago months ago and noticed the photos of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Trump hanging on the lobby wall.
“We were going in there to cooperate potentially against those two individuals,” he said.
With the sentence, the young man whom Trump administration officials called a “coffee boy” and whose family members have argued is caught in a spy conspiracy will become the first Trump campaign affiliate to have his criminal case reach its completion in the court system.
Papadopoulos has asked the judge for extreme leniency. He hopes to be excused from probation immediately after the sentencing because of the last 13 months he’s spent since his arrest, his memo said.
“George told the agents he had no knowledge of anyone on the campaign colluding with the Russians and it would not have been in anyone’s interest to undermine the democratic process,” his lawyers wrote in a memo last weekend. “While his offense was grave, Mr. Papadopoulos did not intend to derail the federal investigation.”
They allege Papadopoulos thwarted an ongoing national security investigation and contributed to them losing track of Joseph Mifsud, the professor who knew about the “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, before they could effectively question him. And, the prosecutors add, Papadopoulos has been difficult for them to handle since he was arrested in July 2017.
“The defendant did not provide ‘substantial assistance’ ” after that arrest, prosecutors wrote to the judge, “and much of the information provided by the defendant came only after the government confronted him.”
A week before his sentencing, Papadopoulos’ legal team took a final swipe at the administration. He publicly contradicted, in his court filing, congressional testimony from Sessions about Sessions’ response to the Putin-Trump meeting proposal.
Only one other criminal defendant in the Russia probe has been sentenced. That was Van Der Zwaan, a London-based Dutch lawyer who worked for the law firm Skadden Arps and assisted Paul Manafort and Rick Gates in rolling out a public relations effort for Ukrainian politicians for whom they worked. Van Der Zwaan pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in February and admitted to hiding his communications with Manafort’s team in 2016 from federal investigators. He received a sentence of 30 days in prison and a $20,000 fine. Van Der Zwaan was deported after he served his time in a low-security facility in Pennsylvania.