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Lobbyist Sam Patten, Charged in Mueller Spinoff Case, Gets 3 Years' Probation

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson. Photo by Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM

Updated at 11:19 a.m.

Sam Patten, a Washington lobbyist and onetime associate of Paul Manafort, avoided prison time Friday on a charge that he failed to disclose past consulting work for a Ukrainian political party, as a federal judge in Washington sentenced him to three years of probation and ordered him to pay a $5,000 fine.

His sentencing before U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson came eight months after he pleaded guilty to violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act, an 80-year-old law requiring the disclosure of U.S.-based lobbying for foreign governments and other interests. After decades of lax enforcement, the law returned to prominence in the prosecution of Manafort, who pleaded guilty last year to charges related to his own lobbying for Ukraine.

Patten pleaded guilty to communicating with U.S. lawmakers on behalf of the Opposition Bloc, a Russia-aligned political party in Ukraine, without disclosing that work to the Justice Department as required under FARA. Prosecutors alleged 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.

As part of the plea deal, Patten also admitted that he brokered access to Trump’s inauguration for a pro-Russian Ukrainian oligarch. The scheme, in which he arranged for a U.S. citizen to serve as a “straw donor” and give $50,000 to Trump’s inaugural committee for four tickets to the event, was designed to circumvent the federal prohibition on foreigners contributing funds to such ceremonies.

The special counsel’s office referred Patten’s case to career federal prosecutors in Washington, who backed the longtime lobbyist’s bid for leniency.

On Friday, Patten’s defense attorney, Schertler & Onorato partner Stuart Sears, said his client had faced a choice “along the way in this case between his career and assisting the government.

“And he chose his country,” Sears said, adding that Patten had likely sacrificed his career in doing so.

“I think that’s an important consideration for the court to take in this case,” he added.

Patten, who’d written a letter to Jackson in advance of Friday’s hearing, said he “fully” appreciated the “seriousness of the offense with which I’m charged.”

“I pled guilty. I recognize the serious of my conduct and crimes I committed. I behaved as if the law did not apply to me, and that was wrong,” he said.

Jackson appeared struck by Patten’s cooperation but said he had been accused of a number of offenses. “None of them were minor,” she said.

Echoing statements she made at Manafort’s sentencing in March, Jackson stressed what she saw as the value of FARA in bringing transparency to the American political process. “The whole point and the only pt of the FARA statute is to ensure transparency in the political process and the legislative process and put people on notice of when a foreign government” is seeking to influence U.S. policy, she said.

“People need the facts for democracy to work,” she said.

But, noting his cooperation with prosecutors and other factors, Jackson said, “there are reasons your sentence is not going to be like Manafort’s sentence.”

Days before sentencing, prosecutors said Patten should be credited for his cooperation with the Russia investigation, noting that he had been prepared to testify against Manafort in Washington. After he was found guilty of financial fraud in Alexandria, Virginia, Manafort pleaded guilty in Washington federal court to a pair of conspiracy charges connected to his past work for the pro-Russian government of Ukraine.

Patten met with government investigators, either in person or over the phone, on nine separate occasions. And his experience as an overseas political consultant made him a “valuable resource for the government in a number of other criminal investigations,” prosecutors said.

At Friday’s sentencing, Jackson appeared miffed by the decision of prosecutors to not recommend a specific sentence for Patten. Prosecutors had declined to provide that specific recommendation, citing in a court filing the “practice of the special counsel’s office.”

"I have to say, I'm not exactly sure where the new tradition of demurring instead of making a recommendation comes from. I believe the culprit may be in the courtroom,” she said, in an apparent reference to Andrew Weissmann, a top prosecutor on Mueller’s team, who attended the sentencing.

Still, she described the prosecutors’ court filing earlier in the week as “extremely supportive” of Patten’s request for leniency.

“It is,” said prosecutor Fernando Campoamor-Sanchez.

 

Read more:

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