Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was released early Wednesday morning from the central Pennsylvania prison where he had been serving a seven-year sentence for tax fraud and conspiracy stemming from the Mueller investigation into the Trump campaign. Manafort’s lawyers submitted a request last month for the 71-year-old to be moved from the minimum-security Loretto Federal Correctional Institution and allowed to serve out his sentence under home confinement because his age and health history put him at risk during the coronavirus pandemic.* Manafort’s lawyers say he suffers from a host of preexisting conditions, including high blood pressure, liver disease, and respiratory problems. Since his sentencing in March 2019, Manafort has been hospitalized for a cardiac event in December, and contracted influenza and bronchitis in February, before the coronavirus outbreak. It’s unclear if Manafort would be required to return to prison when the outbreak subsides.
The move comes as part of a larger effort by the Department of Justice to reduce the prison population to combat the spread of the coronavirus by allowing people to serve out their sentences at home. The bar for early release, however, has been a moving target, as the DOJ continually updated the eligibility requirements. The result is that far fewer federal prisoners than ones in the state system have been released early. The latest DOJ guidance says it is prioritizing vulnerable inmates convicted of nonviolent crimes who have either served more than half of their term or have less than 18 months remaining on their sentence. Manafort fits neither of those criteria and was set to remain behind bars until November 2024.
Correction, May 13, 2020: This post originally misspelled the name of the Loretto Federal Correctional Institution.