The U.S. has a long history of imposing harsher prison sentences for Black and brown people. Paul Manafort is the most recent example. The president’s criminal crony faced up to 24 years in prison under federal guidelines but got off with a light sentence instead.
Manafort, who served as Donald Trump’s presidential campaign chairman, was sentenced on Thursday to 47 months in prison for cheating on his taxes and bank fraud. Adding insult to injury for those who were looking to see justice served, Manafort could still receive a pardon from the president. His conviction stemmed from Special Counsel Robert Mueller‘s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
The Washington Post published a report in 2017 detailing how Black men are sentenced to more prison time for the same crime that white people commit. According to NPR, “the average sentence is nearly 20 percent longer for black men than white men.”
And the disparity doesn’t only exist among men, as shown with the case of Crystal Mason, a Black woman in Texas who got a five-year prison sentence for the offense of voting in an election.
It was that type of racial double standard surrounding Manafort’s sentencing sparked a good deal of outrage. Especially when U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis, a white man, expressed some sympathy for the 69-year-old Republican operative and consultant who has political roots in the highest levels of politics, which includes working for the presidential campaigns of Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan.
“He’s lived an otherwise blameless life,” Ellis said of Manafort’s offenses, adding that he’s “earned the admiration of a number of people.”
Manafort was one of the 34 people and three companies that Mueller has criminally charged, so far, as a result of the probe into “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump” and “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.”
There’s still another chance that Manafort, who was originally charged with conspiracy against the United States, could get a longer sentence that many people say he deserves. He faces another judge next week in the case in D.C., in which he could be handed a prison term of up to 10 years.
Still, Manafort apparently has a get out of jail free card up sleeves, thanks to President Trump.
All of which leads us to highlight the following examples of Black people who got harsher sentences for doing less than the treasonous Manafort.
1. Crystal Mason
Crystal Mason Mason is currently serving 10 months in federal prison and then faces five years in state custody. All for casting a provisional ballot in Nov. 2016 while on supervised release.
2. Former Trenton Mayor Tony Mack
In May 2014, Mack received a 58 months prison for extortion and bribery. He was just released from prison in May of 2018.
3. Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick
In March of 2013, Kwame Kilpatrick was convicted on 24 federal felony counts, including mail fraud, wire fraud, and racketeering. On October of 2013, Kilpatrick was sentenced to 28 years in federal prison.
(Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
4. Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin
In 2014, Ray Nagin was convicted on 20 of 21 charges of wire fraud, bribery, and money laundering. He is currently serving ten years in federal prison. The earliest he could be released is May 2023.
5. Former US Rep. William Jefferson
Former Democratic Congressman William Jefferson was charged with 16 counts including bribery and racketeering and sentenced to 13 years in prison, the longest sentence ever given to a congressman at the time. He spent five and a half of his 13 years in prison after being released on appeal and then accepting a plea deal.
6. Alice Marie Johnson
In 1996, Alice Marie Johnson was convicted for her involvement in a Memphis cocaine trafficking organization. She was sentenced to life imprisonment for the nonviolent crime. In June 2018, after serving 21 years in prison, President Donald Trump commuted her sentence.
7. Stephanie George
Stephanie George was serving a life sentence for a nonviolent drug crime. In 2013, her sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama. After being in jail since 1996, she was released in April of 2014.
8. Donel Clark
In 1994, when Clark was 29, he was sentenced to 30 years for a non-violent drug offense — it was his first offense. At the age of 50, he was released in 2015 after President Obama commuted his sentence. See the powerful video above.
9. Clarence Aaron
Clarence Aaron was a first-time offender for a non-violent crime. He was denied clemency by President Bush but granted a commutation by President Obama in December 2013. He was in prison for more than 15 years.
10. Alton Mills
In 1993, Mills was only 25 years old when he received a mandatory life-without-parole sentence for a nonviolent drug crime. President Obama commuted Alton’s sentence in December 2015. He was released in 2016. Watch the video above with Senator Dick Durbin telling the Chicago native’s story.