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Michael Cohen just got 3 years in jail for fraud and lies

“Blind loyalty to this man [Trump] led me to choose a path of darkness over light.”

by Gabrielle Bluestone and Greg Walters
Dec 12 2018, 5:08pm

Cover image: Michael Cohen, former lawyer to President Donald Trump, leaves his apartment building on New York's Park Avenue, Friday, Dec. 7, 2018. 

President Trump’s former personal attorney and “fixer,” Michael Cohen, was sentenced to 36 months in jail for nine felonies, including a criminal scheme to help Trump win the 2016 election.

Cohen broke down sobbing before the judge at his sentencing in Manhattan Wednesday morning, and in brief, emotional remarks, invoked one man whose presence loomed over the proceeding: President Donald Trump.

"I have been living in a personal and mental incarceration ever since the day that I accepted the offer to work for a real estate mogul whose business acumen I deeply admired," Cohen said.

“Today is one of the most meaningful days of my life,” Cohen continued. ”The irony is that today I get my freedom back.”

Cohen’s lawyers had asked the judge to spare him from jail, citing his assistance with ongoing investigations into Trump’s links to Russia and other matters.

Read: Michael Cohen now plans to tell the whole world about Trump

But prosecutors in the Southern District of New York called Cohen’s claims of cooperation overblown, saying he’d refused to assist with “other areas of investigative interest” beyond the Russia probe and crimes he was charged with. And they said he only started helping after his own legal peril came into view.

“Cohen first reached out to meet with the [special counsel’s office] at a time when he knew he was under imminent threat of indictment in this district. As such, any suggestion by Cohen that his meetings with law enforcement reflect a selfless and unprompted about-face are overstated,” prosecutors wrote before his sentencing.

“Blind loyalty to this man [Trump] led me to choose a path of darkness over light,” Cohen said.

In August, Cohen pleaded guilty to orchestrating a scheme to make hush-money payments to two women claiming they slept with Trump — a crime SDNY prosecutors said was committed “in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1” (Trump), shortly before the election.

In late November, Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow in the middle of the 2016 campaign, telling them the Trump Organization stopped pursuing that project in early 2016.

Cohen’s sentence includes two months specifically for the charge of lying to Congress, which the judge ordered should be served concurrently. He will begin serving his sentence on March 6.

Cohen arrived at the courthouse Wednesday dressed in a dark suit and lavender tie, surrounded by his family. Cohen’s mother, father, in-laws, wife, children, brother, sister and cousin were all present in court, according to his attorney.

President Trump has repeatedly attacked his former lawyer, calling him dishonest and “weak.” As Cohen awaited the judge’s decision, he agreed with his former boss, saying that his weakness was his “blind loyalty” to Trump.

“Blind loyalty to this man [Trump] led me to choose a path of darkness over light,” Cohen said.

RUSSIA AND HUSH MONEY

Last month Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about pursuing a Trump business opportunity in Russia during the 2016 campaign, a project that special counsel Robert Mueller’s team has said could have been worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

READ: Mueller just pulled some of his key findings out of Trump’s grasp

Much of the criminal behavior Cohen was sentenced for on Wednesday tied back directly to things he did to shield Trump — including setting up payoffs to women during the campaign to influence the election, and lying to Congress about Trump’s business interests in Russia.

Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for Stormy Daniels, one of the women Cohen allegedly paid to keep quiet during the campaign, was in attendance Wednesday. He found his way into the courtroom by joining through the press line before sitting at the back of the room in a folding chair. "We're pleased that he was sentenced to 36 months, and the nation owes a debt of gratitude to my client Stormy Daniels," Avenatti said.

Former prosecutors have said Cohen’s wrongdoing may create fresh legal jeopardy for anyone in Trump’s circle who coordinated his lies to Congress, or otherwise helped him engage in crime.

“DOUBLE LIFE”

At the heart of Wednesday’s sentencing was the question: Who is the real Michael Cohen? The serial liar, bully and tax cheat? Or the loyal deputy, husband and father?

Dozens of Cohen’s friends and associates wrote letters to the judge describing him as a family man led astray in part due to his passionate loyalty to an uncompromising boss.

But SDNY prosecutors blasted him as a lifelong swindler, and a greedy man who wouldn’t hesitate to threaten others to get his way.

“He was motivated in part by greed and the desire to live an opulent and lavish lifestyle,” SDNY prosecutors wrote. “He has lived a double life.”

Cover image: Michael Cohen, former lawyer to President Donald Trump, leaves his apartment building on New York's Park Avenue, Friday, Dec. 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

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