Dutch lawyer gets one month in prison in the first sentencing of the Russia probe

Win McNamee/Getty ImagesAttorney Alex van der Zwaan
  • The Dutch lawyer Alex van der Zwaan has been sentenced to 30 days in prison after he pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents in the Russia investigation.
  • He has also been ordered to pay a $US20,000 fine.
  • Van der Zwaan – an associate of Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, and Rick Gates, the former deputy chairman – is the first person to be sentenced in the Russia investigation.

A Dutch lawyer on Tuesday was sentenced to 30 days in prison and ordered to pay a $US20,000 fine in connection with the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 US election.

The lawyer, Alex van der Zwaan, pleaded guilty in February to one count of lying to federal investigators. He faced up to six months in prison.

Van der Zwaan was charged with “wilfully and knowingly” making “false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements and representations” to federal investigators about his work in 2012 for the law firm Skadden, Arps, Meagher & Flom.

He was also accused of misleading federal investigators about his communications with Rick Gates, who worked on Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and is a longtime associate of Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman.

In particular, van der Zwaan is said to have lied to investigators about why he did not provide the special counsel Robert Mueller’s office with a September 2016 email between him and another person referred to as “Person A” in the February charging document.

The court filing said van der Zwaan not only spoke with both Gates and the unnamed person about Skadden’s report on a Ukrainian politician’s controversial trial, but destroyed evidence Mueller’s office was seeking, including the September 2016 email.

Last month, van der Zwaan filed a memorandum requesting a lenient sentence, saying he wanted to be home in time to witness his child’s birth. He asked the judge whether he could pay an “appropriate fine” rather than go to prison.

Mueller’s office did not indicate what prosecutors thought van der Zwaan’s sentence should be, but in a separate filing it said van der Zwaan was an experienced lawyer and accused him of lying after Gates and Manafort were indicted in the Russia investigation.

Last month’s filing from Mueller’s office said it was “pertinent to the investigation” that “Gates and Person A were directly communicating in September and October 2016.”

It added that federal investigators had assessed that Person A was directly tied to Russian intelligence “and had such ties in 2016.”

The filing continued: “During his first interview with the Special Counsel’s Office, van der Zwaan admitted that he knew of that connection, stating that Gates told him Person A was a former Russian Intelligence Officer with the GRU,” Russia’s military intelligence unit.

Earlier Tuesday, van der Zwaan’s lawyers again requested no prison time for their client, and the Dutch lawyer acknowledged that what he did “was wrong.”

Unlike other defendants in the Russia investigation, van der Zwaan has not entered into a cooperation deal with Mueller’s office, which has charged 18 other individuals, including 13 Russian nationals, as part of the Russia investigation. The Department of Justice says it is working with the Russian government to extradite those 13 people.

Four of the other defendants – Gates, the former national security adviser Michael Flynn, the former campaign foreign-policy adviser George Papadopoulos, and a California resident named Richard Pinedo – have pleaded guilty and are cooperating with Mueller.

Manafort has pleaded not guilty to dozens of charges against him.

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