A former State Department official who helped Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election avoided prison for illegally lobbying for Ukraine, with a judge sentencing him to three years of probation.
Sam Patten cooperated with Mueller after admitting in August that he illegally lobbied U.S. lawmakers on behalf of a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party and helped an oligarch get tickets to President Donald Trump’s inauguration. He was sentenced Friday in federal court in Washington, as some of the cases growing out of the Mueller probe are wrapped up.
Patten was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, the same judge who sent Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort to five years in prison. Manafort also admitted illegally lobbying for Ukraine’s Opposition Bloc as well its predecessor Party of Regions and that country’s former president, Viktor Yanukovych.
Manafort and Patten each ran afoul of the federal Foreign Agents Registration Act or FARA, which had been a seldom-invoked statute criminalizing such undeclared entreaties and making them punishable by as long as five years imprisonment. Unlike Manafort, who breached his plea deal with prosecutors by lying, Patten honored his pledge to cooperate, prompting the government to seek leniency on his behalf.
At Patten’s hearing Friday, Jackson called Manafort’s conduct more egregious, and that’s why he got a prison sentence.
The case against Patten was developed by Mueller’s team and then referred to Washington U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu. Prosecutors from that office on Thursday obtained an indictment against former White House counsel Gregory Craig, also arising from lobbying for Ukraine. His case was also assigned to Jackson.
Patten also admitted helping an unnamed Ukrainian oligarch get four Trump inauguration tickets by using a straw buyer to make the necessary $50,000 payment using the oligarch’s money. The Presidential Inauguration Committee is barred from accepting money from foreigners.
A onetime State Department official under President George W. Bush, Patten headed the Moscow office of the International Republican Institute in the early 2000s.
Prosecutors, in a court filing, called Patten’s crimes “serious,” noting that he’d violated FARA, hid a foreign donation to the inaugural committee, provided false testimony and withheld evidence from a Senate intelligence committee. Still, they said, he provided “substantial assistance” warranting leniency.
From 2014, Patten provided a “prominent” Ukrainian oligarch who isn’t named in court papers and his Opposition Bloc political party with lobbying and consulting services. He set up client meetings with lawmakers and members of the U.S. government’s executive branch without disclosing he was working for the bloc, according to a statement of agreed facts he signed on the day of his guilty plea.
A company Patten co-owned with a Russian national received more than $1 million for the work, the U.S. said. Details about the oligarch matched those of Opposition Bloc leader Sergei Lyovochkin, whom prosecutors have previously identified as funding Manafort’s work in Ukraine.
Patten’s attorneys sought to downplay their client’s links with Manafort while touting his early acceptance of responsibility and willingness to help the government.
“Through it all, even in the face of media reporting that has falsely labeled Mr. Patten a lobbyist, or a Manafort ‘associate,’ or a Trump-supporter, as well as the personal attacks and death threats he has received, Mr. Patten has quietly and without fanfare or attention, worked to improve himself and to make sure he understands what led him to act in a manner inconsistent with his own principles and character,” they said in a court filing.