Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s one-time lawyer and a proven liar, was unable to save his own skin Wednesday. Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison for crimes that included tax evasion and fraud.
Cohen, 52, shook his head slightly and closed his eyes as a judge pronounced his sentence for evading $1.4 million in taxes, lying about business dealings and violating campaign-finance laws.
“Time and time again, I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds rather than to listen to my own inner voice and my moral compass,” said a choked-up Cohen, a lawyer who once boasted he would “take a bullet” for Trump.
At the sentencing, defense attorney Guy Petrillo pleaded for leniency for Cohen, saying, “He came forward to offer evidence against the most powerful person in our country.”
U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III said the defendant deserved modest credit, but his assistance “does not wipe the slate clean.”
“Somewhere along the way Mr. Cohen appears to have lost his moral compass,” the judge said.
The judge also ordered Cohen to pay $1.39 million in restitution to the IRS, forfeit $500,000 and pay $100,000 in fines. He was ordered to report to prison March 6 and left court without comment.
The prison sentence was in line with what prosecutors asked for. Sentencing guidelines called for around four to five years, and the government asked in court papers that Cohen be given only a slight break.
The sentence was the culmination of a spectacular rise and fast fall of a lawyer who attached himself to the fortunes of his biggest client, helped him get elected president, then turned on him.
Beyond the guilty pleas, it is unclear what Cohen has told prosecutors or what he has left to say, though one of Mueller’s prosecutors, Jeannie Rhee, said in court that Cohen has “provided consistent and credible information about core Russia-related issues under investigation.” Legal experts said Cohen could get his sentence reduced by cooperating.
Trump has denied any sexual relationship with the women and argued on Twitter earlier this week that the payments to the women were “a simple private transaction” meant to protect the Trump brand name, not a campaign contribution. And if it was a prohibited contribution, Trump said, Cohen is the one who should be held responsible.
“Lawyer’s liability if he made a mistake, not me,” Trump wrote, adding, “Cohen just trying to get his sentence reduced. WITCH HUNT!”
In a case with some parallels, prosecutors in 2011 charged former Sen. John Edwards with funneling nearly $1 million in under-the-table campaign contributions to hide his pregnant lover during his 2008 run for president. Edwards had argued that the payments were a personal matter — intended to keep things secret from his wife — and had nothing to do with the election.
A jury agreed, and found the one-time Democratic presidential candidate not guilty. He wasn’t retried.
The Associated Press contributed to this article