(Bloomberg) -- Sam Patten, a former State Department official who illegally lobbied for Ukraine, was sentenced to three years of probation, avoiding prison after providing “substantial assistance” to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington also ordered him to pay a $5,000 fine and perform 500 hours of community service. Among those seeking leniency for Patten was his wife, Laura, a former Central Intelligence Agency covert operative, who attested to his patriotism.
“I fully appreciate and recognize the seriousness of the offense with which I have been charged,” Patten told the judge on Friday. “I behaved as though the law didn’t apply to me, and that was wrong.”
Patten agreed to cooperate with the U.S. in August after pleading guilty to illegally lobbying U.S. lawmakers on behalf of a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party. He also admitted helping an oligarch get tickets to President Donald Trump’s inauguration. He also had a vantage point on other areas of potential interest to Mueller, including his work with Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and Manafort’s Russian aide, Konstantin Kilimnik.
Jackson and attorneys for both sides cited Patten’s cooperation but revealed no specifics. Prosecutors filed a detailed account with the court under seal. They said he provided “substantial assistance,” without publicly elaborating.
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In September, Jackson sentenced Manafort to five years in prison for fraud, campaign-finance violations and illegal lobbying. Like Patten, Manafort lobbied for Ukraine’s Opposition Bloc.
Manafort and Patten each ran afoul of the federal Foreign Agents Registration Act or FARA, which had until recently been rarely used by prosecutors. Unlike Manafort, who breached his cooperation deal with the government by lying, Patten honored his pledge, and prosecutors also sought leniency for him.
Present in the courtroom was Mueller’s top prosecutor in the Manafort case, Andrew Weissmann.
The case against Patten was developed by Mueller’s team and then referred to Washington U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu. Prosecutors from that office on Thursday obtained an indictment against former White House counsel Gregory Craig, also arising from lobbying for Ukraine. His case was also assigned to Jackson.
Patten also admitted helping an unnamed Ukrainian oligarch get four Trump inauguration tickets by using a straw buyer to make the necessary $50,000 payment using the oligarch’s money. The Presidential Inauguration Committee is barred from accepting money from foreigners.
A onetime State Department official under President George W. Bush, Patten headed the Moscow office of the International Republican Institute in the early 2000s.
In a court filing, prosecutors called Patten’s crimes “serious,” noting he violated FARA, hid a foreign donation to the inaugural committee, provided false testimony and withheld evidence from a Senate intelligence committee.
From 2014, Patten provided a prominent Ukrainian oligarch who isn’t named in court papers and his Opposition Bloc political party with lobbying and consulting services. He set up client meetings with U.S. lawmakers and members of the administration without disclosing he was working for the bloc, according to a statement of facts he agreed to.
A company Patten co-owned with a Russian national received more than $1 million for the work, the U.S. said. Details about the oligarch matched those of Opposition Bloc leader Sergei Lyovochkin, whom prosecutors have previously identified as funding Manafort’s work in Ukraine.
Patten’s attorneys sought to downplay their client’s links with Manafort while touting his early acceptance of responsibility and willingness to help the government.
“Through it all, even in the face of media reporting that has falsely labeled Mr. Patten a lobbyist, or a Manafort ‘associate,’ or a Trump-supporter, as well as the personal attacks and death threats he has received, Mr. Patten has quietly and without fanfare or attention, worked to improve himself and to make sure he understands what led him to act in a manner inconsistent with his own principles and character,” they said in a court filing.
In court, Jackson said the defense appeared to be backing away from facts admitted by Patten when he pleaded guilty, prompting an apology from defense lawyer Stuart Sears, who said he took responsibility for leaving her with that impression.
“This isn’t a mere technicality, and it wasn’t an oversight,” Jackson said of the crime. Rather, she said, it was a four-year course of conduct for which his firm was paid $1 million. “You were making statements to affect public policy and public opinion” without telling the public it was Ukrainians who were paying him to do the talking.
Still, she saw Patten’s expressions of remorse as sincere and noted that he had been helpful in other investigations.
Patten’s wife told the judge her family has been devastated by the case and that her husband never knew that a “Ukrainian-Russian citizen” then working with him was “in the throes of a Russian intelligence agency.
“Sam should not have to go to prison for being an unwitting pawn in a national tragedy that even our government, with all its resources, did not stop -- and which in all likelihood it covertly observed for some time,” she wrote.
The case is U.S. v. Patten, 18-cr-260, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).
(Updates with wife’s letter.)
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