Michael Cohen faces tough disciplinarian while awaiting sentence



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But first, Michael Cohen can ask for mercy.

Cohen, a former personal lawyer for Trump, is to be sentenced on Dec. 12 for eight federal felony counts he pleaded guilty in August after being charged by federal prosecutors in Manhattan with tax fraud, false bank statements, and bankruptcy violations. campaign. work for Trump, including payments Cohen made or helped orchestrate that were set up to silence the women claiming cases with the then presidential candidate.

Trump and Cohen have been apart since Cohen implicated Trump in court, saying he made the payments "in coordination and under the direction of a candidate for federal office."

It is certain that Cohen's sentence will bring a renewed examination of his offenses – and his ties to Trump – and may provide new details drawn from them. And like in every sentence, his fate will depend primarily on the perspective of the federal judge – in this case, a famous severe disciplinarian, according to lawyers who appeared before him.

This week, Cohen's lawyer must file lawsuits that are likely to explain why he deserves a lower sentence.

In recent weeks, Cohen has publicly and privately distanced himself from his former boss, speaking several times to New York federal prosecutors and the team of special adviser Robert Mueller, while also smashing the Trump administration as "crazy" in a brief interview with CNN and trying to break free as a born-again Democrat.
The president's former fixer's rehabilitation tour even included an appearance in the "Page Six" column of the New York Post earlier this month in which he was allegedly celebrated for the relief of an elderly man at a restaurant in the Upper East Side where Cohen saved the man from falling, "hugged him and put it back at his feet."

But if nothing of that yields Cohen to an agreement of cooperation with the federal government – a step that, among other consequences, would almost certainly delay its condemnation -, he will be due in court.

The stipulated range of Cohen's term of office is between 46 and 63 months, according to his agreement, which also sets a series of fines ranging from $ 20,000 to $ 1 million. The judge, however, may deviate from the guidelines when determining Cohen's ruling, which will also take into consideration the lawsuits from both sides that are due in the next two weeks. The federal prosecutors' request is scheduled for next week.

Judge known for long sentences for white-collar offenders

If Cohen is waiting for clemency, he may be out of luck with US District Judge William Pauley III, according to lawyers who have had cases before him.

"He has a very formal approach and is not someone to take things superficially," said Harry Sandick, a former federal prosecutor at the Manhattan Attorney's Office who appeared before Pauley, "and in his white-collar sentences he delivers lengthy generally consistent with the guidelines. "

Pauley declined to comment on this story. Cohen's lawyer, Guy Petrillo, did not respond to a request for comment.

Pauley's strict approach to the court took many forms. In the case of one of the biggest white-collar defendants to appear before Pauley, Sam Waksal, the former pharmaceutical CEO who pleaded guilty in an insider trading case that also entangled Martha Stewart, meant the toughest sentence possible under federal law . guidelines.

In 2003, Pauley sentenced Waksal to a term of imprisonment of more than seven years. In that case, Waksal's lawyer had argued in favor of indulgence, partly by noting that the defendant's job was in the service of cancer patients. Pauley rejected that. "The damage you've done is really incalculable," he told Waksal.

In the case of Bill Burck, the criminal defense attorney whose clients include former White House aide Don McGahn in the special attorney's investigation, meant a startling meeting with the judge when Burck was a 31-year federal prosecutor who appeared before him in New York, according to a person familiar with the episode.

After Burck appeared in court using his first and last name, Pauley called him during a conference and told him, "The government is very casual." When Burck answered with confusion, Pauley said to him: "Its name is William, not Bill, and in this court you will be known by William."

Reached for comment, Burck confirmed the incident, adding, "Subsequent to this, I always called myself William."

Cohen could get a tougher sentence because he is a lawyer

In Cohen's case, one of the factors that may negatively impact the judge's opinion on his crimes, said those who appeared before Pauley, is that Cohen himself is a lawyer.

"I think Judge Pauley is going to look at him as an intelligent person who has a lot of means. He was not taken to criminality by the way he was created," said Elie Honig, a former federal prosecutor and CNN legal analyst. cases before Pauley, "and I think Judge Pauley will be particularly bothered by the fact that Michael Cohen committed these crimes … at least some of them as a lawyer."

In fact, the range of guidelines in Cohen's agreement already contains what is known as a reinforcement, or extra penalty, because he "used a special skill – namely, his education, training and licensing as a lawyer in New York State – in a manner that significantly facilitated commission and concealment of the offense. "

Pauley can speak to this in court and take it into account as much as he chooses, and "in some of his testimonials, he has been particularly concerned about people who are in a position to follow the law, and not," said Sandick . .

Another factor that is sometimes given a significant weight is deterrence. Judges consider what is known as specific deterrence – whether the sentence will cause the defendant to avoid the act in the future – as well as the general deterrent – whether the sentence will dissuade others from committing similar crimes.

Pauley, according to former prosecutors, is adamant about the ability of a tough sentence to prevent similar misbehavior.

"Judge Pauley is a strong deterrent," Honig said. "He believes every sentence he gives has to punish the person in front of him, but also send a message to others."

In Cohen's case, the judge must consider which judgment will serve to deter not only potential offenders from campaign finance laws but also those tempted to commit tax fraud or lie to a bank.

And finally, a judge will assess whether a defendant has shown an appropriate level of remorse for his or her behavior. Pauley is not known to seriously consider this element, according to people who appeared before him, but will likely appear in court documents that are owed by both the Prosecutor's Office and Cohen's defense lawyer, particularly since the Cohen agreement contains a provision. that he will receive a reduction in his sentence "assuming that the defendant clearly demonstrates acceptance of responsibility, to the satisfaction of the Government."

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