U.S. Justice Department headquarters in Washington, D.C. Photo: Mike Scarcella/ALM

George Papadopoulos, a onetime foreign policy adviser for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, was sentenced Friday to 14 days in jail for lying to federal agents investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.

U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss in Washington rejected a push from Papadopoulos for a nonjail sentence. Moss also imposed 12 months of supervised release and 200 hours of community service. Prosecutors had urged Moss to sentence Papadopoulos to up to six months in jail for lying to federal investigators.

Papadopoulos is the first former Trump official to be sentenced to jail for a prosecution arising from the special counsel investigation. “Serving in the United States with pride is all I ever wanted to do,” he said in court. His lawyers put some focus on President Donald Trump, who has derided the investigation as a hoax.

“The president of the United States hindered this investigation more than George Papadopoulos ever did,” Thomas Breen, a lawyer for Papadopoulos, told Moss on Friday. Papadopoulos showed contrition at his sentencing hearing, telling the judge he was “terribly ashamed” for lying to the FBI.

Papadopoulos’s contrition appeared to make an impression on Moss. As he handed down the sentence, Moss said he was confident Papadopoulos would not reoffend and described the “collateral consequences” he’d suffered as “perhaps close to unbearable.” But Moss said he was also mindful of the need to send a broader message deterring the public from lying to federal agents.

In a court filing last month, prosecutors said Papadopoulos lied about his contacts with Russians “when key investigative decisions, including who to interview and when, were being made.”

“Instead of telling the truth, however, the defendant repeatedly lied throughout the interview in order to conceal the timing and significance of information the defendant had received regarding the Russians possessing ‘dirt’ on Hillary Clinton, as well as his own outreach to Russia on behalf of the campaign,” prosecutors said in their sentencing memorandum. “The defendant’s false statements were intended to harm the investigation, and did so.”

Papadopoulos, arrested in July 2017, did not provide “substantial assistance,” prosecutors told Moss. Mueller’s team said Papadopoulos’ “lies negatively affected the FBI’s Russia investigation, and prevented the FBI from effectively identifying and confronting witnesses in a timely fashion.”

Papadopoulos’ lawyers at Chicago’s Breen & Pugh argued for leniency in their sentencing memo.

“George Papadopoulos is now a convicted felon. When it came time to make a good decision he made a bad one. His arrest and prosecution served as notice to all involved that this was a serious investigation,” defense lawyer Robert Stanley wrote to the court. “He was the first domino, and many have fallen in behind. Despite the gravity of his offense, it is important to remember what special counsel said at George’s plea of guilty: he was just a small part of a large-scale investigation.”

In the months since the guilty plea, administration officials have downplayed Papadopoulos’ role on the campaign, stressing that he was a volunteer. A veteran of the Trump campaign, Michael Caputo, described as a “coffee boy” the young aide whom Trump had described during the campaign as an “excellent guy.”

The Papadopoulos sentence marked the second jail term secured by Mueller’s team. Alexander Van Der Zwaan, a former London-based associate at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, received a 30-day sentence on a similar charge of lying to federal agents.

Several other defendants have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. Those defendants include Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, represented by a team from Covington & Burling. Flynn pleaded guilty to making a false statement to the FBI. Former campaign official Rick Gates, who also pleaded guilty, testified last month at the Virginia trial of Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman.

A jury in Alexandria, Virginia, last month found Manafort guilty on bank and tax fraud charges. Manafort, who is awaiting sentencing on those charges, faces a second trial in Washington this month on charges tied to his foreign lobbying and political consulting work before the 2016 election.

 

 

 

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