Michael Cohen blamed President Trump for corrupting him before being sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison for crimes that included arranging illegal payoffs during the 2016 campaign to keep a porn star and a Playboy model silent about their alleged affairs with Trump.
Cohen — who once vowed that he’d “take a bullet for the president” — told the judge that Trump had led him “to choose a path of darkness over light.”
“Recently, the president tweeted a statement calling me weak, and he was correct — but for a much different reason,” Cohen said.
“Time and again I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds rather than listen to my own voice.”
“Today is the day I am getting my freedom back,” Cohen added.
Trump’s former personal lawyer and longtime “fixer” also broke down in tears while describing how his family — including his wife, son and daughter, all seated in court — had “suffered immeasurably” because “I have let them all down.”
The punishment imposed by Manhattan federal Judge William Pauley III was well below the maximum five-plus years Cohen had faced under non-binding guidelines, but more than the no-jail sentence sought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in exchange for Cohen’s cooperation with his Russia probe.
Cohen, 52, shook his head and shut his eyes as he learned his fate, while daughter Samantha Cohen gasped and wept.
Once court was adjourned, Cohen consoled his daughter — who was allowed to sit in the well, behind her dad, because she’s walking with crutches. He then hugged and kissed his son, Jake, who burst into tears after approaching from the gallery with his mom, Laura.
Cohen has until March 6 to report to prison.
Cohen pleaded guilty in August to campaign-finance charges and tax evasion in a case brought by Manhattan federal prosecutors that involved the hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels and ex-Playmate Karen McDougal.
He didn’t have a cooperation agreement at the time, but he began spilling his guts anyway and later struck a deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Under terms of that pact, Cohen pleaded guilty last month to lying to Congress about efforts during the 2016 campaign to win Russian government help for a planned Trump development project in Moscow.
Pauley said Cohen had committed a “veritable smorgasbord of illegal conduct,” even though “as a lawyer, Mr. Cohen should have known better.”
“The magnitude and breadth of his criminal conduct requires general deterrence,” Pauley said.
“Mr. Cohen’s crimes implicate a far more insidious harm to our democratic institutions…especially making false statements to Congress.”
The judge observed that after going to work for Trump in 2007, Cohen “thrived on his access to wealthy and powerful people and he became one himself.”
“Somewhere along the way, Mr. Cohen appears to have lost his moral compass and sought to monetize his newfound influence,” he said.
“While Mr. Cohen has taken steps to mitigate his criminal conduct…that does not wipe the slate clean.”
Earlier in the proceeding, one of Mueller’s prosecutors, Jeannie Rhee, told Pauley that Cohen had “repeated the false statements” he made to Congress during his first voluntary meeting with the Mueller team in July, but came clean during a second sitdown in September.
“He has fully accepted responsibility for the lies he told Congress. He has provided our office with reliable information about core Russian issues,” she said.
“He has provided valuable information to us while taking care and being careful to note what he knows and what he doesn’t know.”
Rhee was vague on the details, however, saying that “there’s only so much that we can say about the particulars at this time, given our ongoing investigation.”
Manhattan federal prosecutor Nicolas Roos, however, urged Pauley to impose a “substantial custodial sentence,” noting that in addition to his Trump-related crimes, Cohen “quite brazenly stole millions of dollars of income from the IRS.”
“These tax crimes went on for at least five years,” Roos said.
“It was deliberate and it was willful.”
Taken together, Roos said, “Mr. Cohen has eroded faith in the electoral process and compromised the rule of law.”
Defense lawyer Guy Petrillo argued for “a full consideration of mercy,” praising Cohen’s “courage” and saying his decision to help prosecutors was “importantly different” from most.
“He came forward to offer evidence against the most powerful person in our country,” Petrillo said.
“He did so not knowing what the result would be, not knowing how the politics would play out and not knowing if the special counsel would survive.”
Petrillo said Cohen “knew that the president might shut down the investigation and he knew that there might come a time when he would appear in court and there would be no special counsel to stand up for him.”
“He moved forward nonetheless,” Petrillo added.
In addition to imposing the prison time, Pauley ordered Cohen to pay $1.4 million in restitution to the IRS, $500,000 in forfeitures and $100,000 in fines.
Cohen said nothing as he left the courthouse and was driven off in a black SUV.
But Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, told reporters that Cohen was “no hero” and deserved “every minute” of his time in prison.
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