First person sentenced in Russia probe draws 30 days, fine
Published 7:26 am Wednesday, April 4, 2018
WASHINGTON — A Dutch attorney who lied to federal agents investigating former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was sentenced Tuesday to 30 days in prison in the first punishment handed down in the special counsel’s Russia investigation. He was also ordered to pay a $20,000 fine.
Alex van der Zwaan’s sentence could set a guidepost for what other defendants charged with lying in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation may receive when their cases are resolved. Among them are a former White House national security adviser and a Trump campaign foreign policy aide.
Van der Zwaan had faced zero to six months in prison under federal sentencing guidelines, and his attorneys had pushed for him to pay a fine and leave the country.
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But U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, citing the need to deter others from lying in an investigation of international importance, said incarceration was necessary.
“These were not mistakes. These were lies,” Jackson told van der Zwaan as he stood before her. Being able to “write a check and walk away,” she added later, would not fit the seriousness of the crime or send the right message.
The criminal case against van der Zwaan is not directly related to Russian election interference, the main focus of Mueller’s probe. But it has revealed new details about the government’s case against Manafort and opened a window into the intersecting universes of international law, foreign consulting work and politics.
The case has also exposed connections between senior Trump campaign aides, including Rick Gates, and Russia. Just last week, the government disclosed that van der Zwaan and Gates spoke during the 2016 presidential campaign with a man Gates had previously described as having ties to the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency. Gates is now cooperating with Mueller.
During a 40-minute hearing Tuesday, van der Zwaan made only a brief statement, telling Jackson, “Your Honor, what I did was wrong. I apologize to the court. I apologize to my wife.”
Van der Zwaan, who was fired last year by the high-powered international law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, admitted in February to lying to federal agents about his contacts with Gates and the person with ties to Russian intelligence.