Steve Bannon, the former adviser to former President Donald Trump, has been sentenced to four months in prison after being convicted of contempt of Congress earlier this year. The sentence comes a year to the day after he was first held in contempt.
The sentence will be served in federal prison, but the judge will suspend the sentence if Bannon files a timely appeal until the process is complete.
Bannon has 14 days to file and if he does not, then he will make arrangements to voluntarily surrender to serve his sentence no later than Nov. 15, CNN reported.
The four months handed down for each count will be served concurrently, CNN reported.
The Washington Post reported that Bannon will be the first person in more than 50 years to be jailed for defying a congressional subpoena. The Post said the statute that was used to convict Bannon is rarely prosecuted.
He was also fined $6,500, NBC News reported.
Judge Carl Nichols said Bannon has a “very small risk of recidivism with regard to congressional subpoenas,” and that the sentence must serve as a reminder to the public that they have to cooperate with congressional investigations.
Nichols also said that the subpoena had possible legal issues because it was issued for someone who had direct conversations with Trump and said that Bannon did not fully ignore the requirement to appear, instead interacting with the committee through his attorney. Nichols took under consideration the committee’s rush to issue the subpoena instead of using civil courts to pressure him to testify or hand over documents, CNN reported.
Bannon was found guilty by a jury of failing to comply with a subpoena from the House select committee, which has been investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Prosecutors had sought a six-month prison sentence and a $200,000 fine, saying that Bannon has “consistently acted in bad faith with the purpose of frustrating the Committee’s work.”
The subpoena had asked for both documents and testimony from Bannon, but he did not supply either, citing “his good-faith reliance” on advice from his lawyer, Robert Costello. Costello is said to have told Bannon that he did not have to provide the documents or appear in front of the committee due to his position as a presidential adviser, which the attorney said was covered by possible executive privilege.
Trump’s attorney, Justin Clark, said he did not invoke executive privilege to Bannon and claimed that Costello “misrepresented” to the committee what Clark told him.
Bannon was found in contempt of Congress on Oct. 21, 2021. He was later indicted by a grand jury. Bannon did not defend himself in court during his July trial but several times did speak outside of the courthouse, on social media and on his podcast about why he did not comply with the Congressional order, according to NPR.
Bannon was convicted on July 22. He spoke after the verdict was announced saying, “In the closing argument, the prosecutor missed one very important phrase — I stand with Trump and the Constitution and I will never back off that, ever,” CNN reported.
Bannon is planning to appeal the conviction and had asked for Friday’s sentencing to be delayed pending the appeal.
In a memo to the court, Bannon’s attorneys wrote: “The ear of a sentencing judge listens for the note of contrition. Someone was convicted. Did they learn their lesson? This case requires something more. It involves larger themes that are important to every American.”
“Should a person who has spent a lifetime listening to experts — as a naval officer, investment banker, corporate executive, and Presidential advisor — be jailed for relying on the advice of his lawyers? Should a person be jailed where the prosecutor declined to prosecute others who were similarly situated — with the only difference being that this person uses their voice to express strongly held political views? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then a sentence of probation is warranted.”
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