Inside the Courtroom as President's Ex 'Fixer' Michael Cohen Gets Prison Sentence

A pale Michael Cohen stood alone at a podium in a packed New York City federal courtroom on Wednesday as he was sentenced

Michael Cohen Sentancing, New York, USA - 12 Dec 2018
Photo: JUSTIN LANE/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

Michael Cohen, Donald Trump‘s former lawyer and close confidant, had been so loyal to the president that he once said that he’d “take a bullet” for his boss.

Just 15 months after that interview with Vanity Fair, a pale Cohen stood alone at a podium in a packed New York City federal courtroom as he calmly said of his former boss: “I felt it was my duty to cover up his dirty deeds. My weakness can be characterized as a blind loyalty to Donald Trump.”

“I have been living in a personal and mental incarceration ever since the fateful day that I accepted the offer to work for a famous real estate mogul whose business acumen I truly admired,” Cohen continued. “In fact I now know there is little to be admired.”

Before he was sentenced to three years in federal prison, Cohen pleaded for leniency to U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III.

His crimes include tax evasion, lying to Congress about Trump’s prior business dealings with Russia and illegal “hush money” he paid on the eve of the 2016 election to buy the silence of two women who claim they had affairs with Trump — payments that Cohen said Trump directed him to make, which are felony campaign finance violations. (Trump has repeatedly denied he had these affairs.)

As Cohen spoke, his father, who was sitting in a wheelchair, rested his head in his hands. Cohen’s mother, brother, wife Laura, children and other family members filled several rows of the court. His daughter, Samantha, sitting directly behind him, sobbed.

Trump Lawyer Investigation, New York, USA - 12 Dec 2018
On left, Michael Cohen’s wife, Laura Shusterman, daughter Samantha and son Jake. Julio Cortez/AP/REX/Shutterstock

“The faster I am sentenced, the sooner I can return to my family,” said Cohen, choking on tears as he said he was sorry for the “unbearable pain” he has caused his loved ones. “I want to apologize to my entire family for what I have put them through.”

“Most of all I want to apologize to the people of the United States. You deserved to know the truth and lying to you was unjust.”

Cohen also promised to continue his cooperation with special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.

When he returned to his seat at the defense table, Cohen looked at his tearful daughter and stroked her cheek.

At the sentencing, Jeannie Rhee of the special counsel’s office said Cohen has “sought to tell us the truth and that is of the utmost value to us” and has “provided consistent and credible information about core Russia-related issues under investigation.”

While Judge Pauley noted that Cohen deserved credit for his guilty plea and cooperation during the summer, the judge said “it does not wipe the slate clean.”

“Somewhere along the way Mr. Cohen appears to have lost his moral compass,” Pauley said. “As a lawyer, Mr. Cohen should have known better.”

After the judge sentenced Cohen to three years in prison and three years probation, and ordered the payment of $1.393 million in taxes he evaded, Cohen kissed his sobbing daughter on the head.

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Cohen’s bawling wife, Laura, and son, Jake, walked to the front of the courtroom and embraced each other and Samantha. The tears continued as the family walked with a dry-eyed Cohen into an elevator. He left the court without giving comment.

Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for Stormy Daniels — the adult film star who was paid $130,000 by Cohen to keep quiet about her affair with Trump — sat in the back of the courtroom during the hearing.

Prosecutors said that Cohen’s payment to Daniels, and Cohen’s arrangement for the parent company of the National Enquirer to pay $150,000 to Karen McDougal to keep quiet about her alleged affair with Trump, constituted campaign finance violations meant to sway the election.

Avenatti was mobbed with television cameras and passersby requesting selfies as he left the courthouse. He told PEOPLE: “We’re pleased he was sentenced to at least 36 months of incarceration. He deserves every month.”

Avenatti added that regarding Donald Trump’s future, “It all depends on whether Bob Mueller is going to indict Donald Trump or not. I think a sitting president can be indicted and he should be indicted.”

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