Donald Trump's former fixer Michael Cohen sentenced to 36 months in jail; Cohen says 'blind loyalty' to Trump led him to 'darkness'

US President Donald Trump's former fixer Michael Cohen who has pleaded guilty to a slew of crimes including campaign finance violations, lying to US Congress and is co-operating with the Robert Mueller investigation, has been sentenced to 36 months in prison. He will surrender to New York police on 6 March next year. This is less than the guideline sentencing timeframe of 51-63 months for the crimes that Cohen has admitted to. Clearly, Cohen has benefitted hugely from his co-operation with the Mueller investigation.

Cohen also faces two additional months for lying to Congress, which will be served concurrently. "This is the first day of my freedom", Cohen said, referring to his "freedom" from his former boss Donald Trump's hold over him. Cohen has also been ordered to pay up a $100,000 fine.

Cohen, 52, walked slowly into the courthouse, watched by a throng of reporters and television camera crews, with his hand supporting the arm of his daughter, who was on crutches, as his son and wife walked closely behind. In powerful words, Cohen told the judge about his journey from being Trump's fixer to where he is today: "My loyalty to that man led me to choose darkness over light" and later "I will work to make this right and become the best version of myself" he said as arguments ended. "I take full responsibility for my crimes. I blame myself for the conduct that has brought me here. I am truly sorry and I promise I will be better", Cohen said.

Cohen's sentencing continues to shine a harsh spotlight on his former boss Donald Trump, who is effectively Cohen's "unindicted co-conspirator", based on sentencing documents filed by the Southern District of New York (SDNY). Cohen's sentence is based primarily on SDNY charges. Robert Mueller has not recommended any additional sentence for Cohen, saying Trump's former lawyer has "assisted" his probe.

 Donald Trumps former fixer Michael Cohen sentenced to 36 months in jail; Cohen says blind loyalty to Trump led him to darkness

Donald Trump's former fixer and lawyer Michael Cohen. AP

In a scathing 40-page memo, Manhattan prosecutors have described Cohen, 52, as a man who used his knowledge of law to live a "double life" pockmarked by a string of shady deals. Cohen's lawyers asked for no prison time, saying he has suffered enough already.

"The greatest punishment Michael has endured in the criminal process has been the shame and anxiety he feels daily from having subjected his family to the fallout from his case," his attorneys wrote in a court filing last month. "The media glare and intrusions on all of them, including his children, the regular hate correspondence and written and oral threats, the fact that he will lose his law license, the termination of business relationships by banks and insurers and the loss of friendships, are but some of this fallout."

Cohen's transition from Trump's fixer-in-chief to felon has been head-spinning. During the campaign, Cohen coordinated payments to buy the silence of two women — former Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult film actress Stormy Daniels — who were thinking of speaking with reporters about alleged sexual encounters with Trump. Cohen once told an interviewer he would "take a bullet" for Trump. Prosecutors said Cohen orchestrated payments to McDougal and Daniels at Trump's direction.

But months after investigators began gathering evidence that he'd dodged $1.4 million in taxes, Cohen pleaded guilty in August, pledged to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian interference in the presidential election and changed his party registration from Republican to Democrat.

Trump, who insists the affairs never happened, said Monday, in a tweet mocked for its spelling errors, that the campaign finance allegations are being made up by Democrats disappointed not to have found a "smocking gun" proving collusion between his campaign and Russia.

"So now the Dems go to a simple private transaction, wrongly call it a campaign contribution ... which it was not (but even if it was, it is only a CIVIL CASE, like Obama's - but it was done correctly by a lawyer and there would not even be a fine. Lawyer's liability if he made a mistake, not me). Cohen just trying to get his sentence reduced. WITCH HUNT!" Trump wrote.

Federal prosecutors said Cohen's lawyers' request of a probation-only sentence is unbefitting of "a man who knowingly sought to undermine core institutions of our democracy." Mueller's office took a far kinder view of Cohen's cooperation in a separate court filing, crediting him for useful insights about attempts by Russian intermediaries to influence Trump, among other matters.

(With Associated Press)

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Updated Date: Dec 12, 2018 22:49:58 IST