Tuesday, August 21, 2018

What does the Cohen plea agreement say? (Corrected)

Here is the Michael Cohen plea agreement to all 8 counts of the information.

The maximum sentence to these 8 counts is 65 years.

The government calculates the guidelines at level 24 (51-63 months) and the defense calculates a level 23 (46-57 months). The dispute is over grouping. I would love to hear the pundits (especially the ones who have never practiced in federal court) trying to explain the grouping guidelines. Most federal probation officers and judges can't figure out the grouping rules.

The guidelines were calculated as follows:

Base offense level 7
+16 for more than 1.5 million and less than 3.5 million under the fraud guidelines
+2 for sophisticated means (for use of the shell companies)
+2 for special skill (lawyer)
-3 for acceptance of responsibility
total: 24
(the defense believes it's 23 based on a complicated grouping argument)

CORRECTION.  I initially posted that the parties agreed that no variance arguments could be made, but this was incorrect.  The bottom of page 4 says that no *departure* arguments could be made, but the top of page 5 allows for variance arguments.  That means that Cohen is free to argue for a below-guidelines sentence based on personal characteristics, sentencing disparity, and just about anything he wants.  The prosecutor is free to argue for an above guideline sentence based on the seriousness of the crime, impact on the community and so on.  But an above guideline sentence is unlikely.

Although it's not specifically mentioned in the plea agreement, it is obvious that Cohen is cooperating. He said as much during his colloquy today and his lawyer, Lanny Davis, has been all over the news saying the same thing.

If he gets cooperation credit, the defense will be asking for a significant reduction below the guidelines -- probably all the way to probation.  It is too difficult to speculate what the prosecution would ask for at this time, although the SDNY is known for giving large cooperation reductions. The judge will be permitted to do whatever he wants, from 0 to 65 years in prison.  But he will likely start with the guidelines and then go lower depending on how much Cohen cooperates and based on the variance arguments he makes.

The plea agreement was not signed by the U.S. Attorney for the SDNY as he is recused. So Robert Khuzami was on the signature block as Acting U.S. Attorney. Guy Petrillo signed for the defense.

Tough day for the White House, to say the least.

Manafort guilty of 8 counts in trial #1. He still has trial #2 in DC.


Anonymous said...

Why is the fraud amount being calculated at 1.5M-3.5M when the forfeiture agreed amount is set conveniently just short of 1.5M?

Anonymous said...

All judicial confirmations should cease.