A federal judge on Tuesday sentenced former Trump campaign official Rick Gates to 45 days in jail despite what she said was “extraordinary" cooperation with special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe and other Justice Department investigations.
The jail sentence, which U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said was needed to deter others and to reflect the seriousness of his crimes, is to be served intermittently during three years of probation that she also imposed.
The sentence resolves one of the lingering open court cases arising from Mueller's investigation into ties between Russia and President Donald Trump's campaign. Gates is now the fourth Trump associate to receive at least some time behind bars because of the probe, though his sentence is far less than the punishment he could have faced when he was first charged and reflected the judge's efforts to balance his crimes against the help he's given the government in the last two years.
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Prosecutors didn't seek prison time for Gates, who pleaded guilty in February 2018 to charges relating to lucrative political consulting work he did in Ukraine. They cited his extensive cooperation, which included testifying in three trials, more than 50 meetings with the government, and a commitment to continue sharing information with the government even after his sentence.
Jackson commended Gates for his assistance, describing it as an “important public service" that went to the heart of the central question that Mueller and his team sought to answer — whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia during the 2016 presidential election.
Gates, for instance, provided key details about the Trump campaign's eagerness to exploit the release by WikiLeaks of Democratic emails that U.S. officials say were hacked by Russia. He also described the sharing of confidential polling data by Paul Manafort, his onetime mentor and a Trump campaign chairman, with a business associate the U.S. says has ties to Russian intelligence.
“Gates' information alone warranted — indeed, demanded — further investigation from the standpoint of our national security, the integrity of our elections and the enforcement of our criminal laws," Jackson said.
But she also scolded him for years of financial crimes and deception that continued even after he had agreed to plead guilty and cooperate. She said it was “hard to overstate the number of lies" and the amount of fraud involved in the case.
“All of it," the judge said, “has to factor into the sentence."
Gates sought leniency from the judge, saying in a brief statement in court that he accepted responsibility for his crimes.
“I greatly regret the mistakes that I have made and I have worked hard to honor my commitment to make amends," Gates said.
Gates is one of a half-dozen Trump associates charged in Mueller's investigation. All six have either pleaded guilty or been found guilty in a jury trial.
The three who had already been sentenced before Tuesday — Manafort, Michael Cohen and George Papadopoulos — have all received prison time. Two others, former Trump administration national security adviser Michael Flynn and Trump confidant Roger Stone, are awaiting sentencing.
Gates was among the first defendants charged in Mueller's investigation, though the crimes actually had nothing to do with the campaign.
An indictment accused him and Manafort of failing to disclose the work they did for then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and of hiding in foreign bank accounts millions of dollars in proceeds that they used to fund lavish lifestyles and pay for personal expenses.
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Credit: Noreen O'Donnell, Nelson Hsu, Nina Lin/NBC
Gates pleaded guilty to charges of false statements and conspiracy against the United States, and he agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, including by testifying against Manafort, who is now serving more than seven years in prison. He was moved to a hospital last week because of a heart-related condition, two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
Gates also admitted lying to prosecutors even after he had agreed to start cooperating, though Jackson praised him for recovering from that mistake and accepting responsibility through testimony that she said was truthful and not embellished.
“He didn't sit down one day and say what he thought the prosecutor wanted to hear and say, 'OK, that's that. Now I'm ready for probation.'"
Prosecutors did not oppose Gates' request for probation. Before the hearing, Gates shared a friendly handshake at the defense table with Andrew Weissmann, a prosecutor for Mueller who investigated him and Manafort.
“The government would point out that it is difficult to imagine the turbulent and public atmosphere in which Mr. Gates had to make the decision to plead guilty," prosecutor Molly Gaston told the judge.
Gaston added: “Mr. Gates stands out as someone who in the midst of such an environment decided to do the right thing."