Without recommending a specific sentence, prosecutors said Monday that Washington lobbyist Sam Patten should receive credit for his cooperation with the government when he is sentenced this week for failing to disclose to U.S. authorities his past consulting work for a Ukrainian political party.
Patten, a onetime associate of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, pleaded guilty in August to violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act, an 80-year-old law that came to renewed prominence following Manafort’s prosecution on charges related to his past lobbying work for the Russia-aligned government of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. Manafort’s prosecution at the hands of the special counsel’s office, led by Robert Mueller III, marked the beginning of the Justice Department’s renewed scrutiny of advocacy for international clients after decades of lax FARA enforcement.
Patten’s case was referred to career prosecutors by Special Counsel Robert Mueller III’s office.
In a court filing, prosecutors said Patten faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison but recommended that he be credited for the “cooperation and the substantial assistance he has provided to the government.”
“Consistent with the practice of the Special Counsel’s Office, the government does not take a position with respect to a particular sentence to be imposed,” the prosecutors said.
Patten had been prepared to testify against Manafort in Washington, prosecutors said, adding that his experience as a political consultant overseas made him a “valuable resource for the government in a number of other criminal investigations.” He met with government investigators, either on the phone or in person, on nine separate occasions.
Patten, represented by Schertler & Onorato partner Stuart Sears, was charged last year with failing to register as a foreign agent in connection with his work for the Opposition Bloc, a political party in Ukraine. Prosecutors alleged that Patten sought to arrange for his Russian business partner and a member of the Opposition Bloc—identified in court papers as a “prominent Ukrainian oligarch”—to meet with members of Congress and their staffs, but failed to disclose those activities to the U.S. Justice Department.
Sears argued that Patten should avoid jail time, in a court filing that downplayed Patten’s offense and appeared to draw distinctions between his case and Manafort’s.
“Mr. Patten was never hired to lobby U.S politicians or to advocate for or against any specific U.S. policy. Mr. Patten did not create or hire intermediaries for the purpose of concealing from the American public or government his work on behalf of a foreign client. He did not charge exorbitant fees to advance his client’s causes and did not hide his assets around the globe and far away from the IRS,” Sears said in a sentencing memo posted Monday.
Patten’s defense lawyers continued: “And perhaps most importantly for a FARA case, he never concealed who his clients were. Instead, during the course of a long business relationship where Mr. Patten advised his clients on matters related solely to Ukrainian politics and elections, he did a few favors for his clients that crossed the line into FARA-registrable activity.”
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson is set to sentence Patten on April 12. In a letter to Jackson on March 28, Patten said he accepted “complete responsibility” and that he “should be punished for this.”
Patten, prosecutors said, focused his efforts on members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and House Committee on Foreign Affairs but also worked to arrange meetings with State Department officials and reporters. His failure to disclose the lobbying dated back to 2014, prosecutors said, adding his company raked in more than $1 million between the spring of 2015 and 2017 from its work for the Opposition Bloc.
“The activity was undertaken to promote the interests of [the Ukrainian oligarch] and the Opposition Bloc to influence U.S. policy,” prosecutors said in the charging documents. Prosecutors also alleged that Patten helped the Ukrainian oligarch draft op-eds targeted at the U.S. press.
As part of his plea deal, Patten admitted to brokering access to President Donald Trump’s inauguration for a pro-Russian Ukrainian oligarch in a scheme designed to circumvent the federal prohibition on foreigners donating to such ceremonies.
At his sentencing Friday, Patten will find himself in front of a judge who has been immersed in foreign-lobbying issues for more than a year now.
Jackson presided over the special counsel’s prosecution of Manafort in Washington, a case that included allegations that the longtime Republican operative failed to register under FARA and, through an unknowing attorney, misled the Justice Department about the nature of his work for Ukraine.
Berman’s sentence—coming weeks after a federal judge in Alexandria, Virginia, sentenced Manafort on financial fraud charges—elevated Manafort’s prison term to 7½ years.
At Manafort’s sentencing, Jackson stressed that FARA was a criminal statute and not merely a “pesky regulation,” as many lobbyists came to view it after years of light enforcement.
“When people don’t have the facts, democracy can’t work,” she said, adding that Manafort had effectively lied to Congress and the American public by failing to properly disclose his work for Ukraine.