Robert Mueller Secures First Sentencing in Russia Probe

The whole world can now let out a collective sigh of relief that poor Alex van der Zwaan will not have to serve so much prison time that he misses the August birth of his first child. Hallelujah! God is merciful. U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson is merciful too, and she will recommend that Mr. van der Zwaan serve his 30 day sentence at the cushy white collar facility in Allenwood, Pennsylvania rather than at a halfway house or D.C. jail as is the normal custom with such short federal sentences. On the other hand, Judge Berman Jackson was in no mood to let van der Zwaan escape any incarceration.

One of van der Zwaan’s defense attorneys, William Schwartz, argued that leniency was appropriate given the impact of the episode on the Dutch attorney’s family and on his legal career. He is likely to lose his license as a solicitor in the United Kingdom, Schwartz said.

But Jackson was largely unmoved by those arguments, noting that van der Zwaan came from an upbringing of privilege and lacked any hardship that could have mitigated his actions.

Van der Zwaan is married to the daughter of a Ukrainian-Russian energy mogul, German Khan, whom Forbes ranks 138th on its list of billionaires, with a net worth of $9.3 billion.

“This glass was dropped on a very think carpet, which has cushioned him,” the judge said.

This son-in-law of a Russian oligarch lied to federal investigators about his contacts with a GRU military intelligence officer who worked for years in the offices of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates. That’s not the only reason his law firm fired him, however. He seems to have actually worked for Russian intelligence himself.

Van der Zwaan was drawn into the saga in 2012 as his law firm prepared to release a report commissioned by Manafort and Gates for Ukraine’s Justice Ministry in a bid to defend then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who had jailed one of his most prominent political opponents, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko…

…The report was billed as an arms-length review of the circumstances surrounding Tymoshenko’s trial. However, Mueller’s team told [Judge] Jackson that, in the words of an unnamed witness, van der Zwaan had “gone native” and began communicating about the report with Gates, offering talking points for the Ukrainian government in advance of its release. The Dutch attorney also gave a draft copy of the report to a public relations firm working with Ukraine, contrary to instructions from senior attorneys at Skadden, prosecutors said.

In addition to that, he secretly recorded conversations with a senior law partner at the firm, so his future employment as a solicitor would be in doubt even without this conviction on his record.

Robert Mueller is relieved to have a 30 day sentence here because it sends a message to anyone else who is thinking of lying to his prosecutors. And even he was merciful since his team told the judge that they had no problem with a sentence that would be light enough to assure that van der Zwaan would be home in time for the birth of his child.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.