The Russian investigation took an interesting turn on Tuesday, April 3 when Dutch lawyer Alex van der Zwaan was sentenced to 30 days in prison in addition to a 20,000 dollar fine. The reasoning for the sentence was that he lied to federal investigators when he was questioned about his contact with senior Trump campaign official, Rick Gates. This is the first official sentence in the Mueller investigation which seeks to discover if there was any Russian meddling or collusion with the Trump campaign in the 2016 election.
This sentence might be the first of many, setting a precedent for others involved in the scandal. This certainly seems to be what the District Judge Amy Berman Jackson was going for when she denied Van der Zwaan’s attorneys attempts to keep him out of jail, despite his lawyers stating that he had made a “terrible decision” and that he needed to get home to his pregnant wife. Unfortunately for Van der Zwann, Jackson was not buying it, stating that his expressions of remorse “were somewhat muted, to say the least.” In addition to his sentencing, Van der Zwann can possibly have his license to practice law in England, where he lives, revoked.
There are currently four others with criminal charges from the Mueller. All four defendants have agreed to cooperate in the investigation and, as a result, have had their sentencing stayed for the moment — explaining why Van der Zwaan was charged early. Paul Manafort, another defendant, was also in the news recently because of a case involving money laundering, bank fraud, and tax evasion — can’t get enough of the spotlight, huh? Manafort had asked Judge Berman Jackson to dismiss the charges, since Mueller didn’t have the power to investigate his profitable lobbying work in the Ukraine. However, Mueller rejected that argument on Monday night by introducing a memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein which stated that that he was “authorized to probe allegations of improper payments related to Manafort’s work.” All of these individuals, in addition to the 13 Russians and three Russian entities, were also charged.
This certainly marks a change in the pace of the Russian investigation, which has so far only resulted in the indictment of individuals without any actual arrests, given their cooperation. While it is currently unknown if there any other big profile arrests are coming soon, only time will tell if Manafort will face jail. However, one this is certain: this a very dark omen to the rich lawyers who might have been hoping for easy sentences.