"As a former prosecutor, I'm embarrassed," said NBC News and MSNBC legal analyst Glenn Kirschner, speaking Thursday on MSNBC. "As an American, I'm upset ... I am just as disappointed with Judge Ellis. It's an outrage and it's disrespectful of the American people."
Former federal prosecutor Laurie L. Levenson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said, "I'm somewhat surprised."
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"This is so much more lenient than what the guidelines would be," she said. "Manafort’s personal plea and frail condition probably did make a difference."
Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell of California responded to the light sentence with irony, saying on "All In With Chris Hayes," "I think I spent more days in detention in high school than Judge Ellis thinks that Paul Manafort should spend in jail for what he did to defraud the United States."
Many other observers highlighted the disparity between punishments for white-collar crime like Manafort's and street crime, and between the sentences for wealthy people and everyone else.
Paul Manafort getting such little jail time for such serious crimes lays out for the world how it’s almost impossible for rich people to go to jail for the same amount of time as someone who is lower income.
"Crimes committed in an office building should be treated as seriously as crimes committed on a street corner," Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota said on Twitter.
At Brooklyn Defender Services in New York, which provides legal services to low-income people, Scott Hechinger posted a series of tweets, such as one saying, "My client yesterday was offered 36-72 months in prison for stealing $100 worth of quarters."
For context on Manafort’s 47 months in prison, my client yesterday was offered 36-72 months in prison for stealing $100 worth of quarters from a residential laundry room.
"I prosecuted white collar crime and typically they get lighter sentences," Levenson said. "If you rob a bank you’re going to spend twice as long in prison as someone who steals millions otherwise."
Some of the negative reaction was aimed at the judge who set the sentence. Judge T.S. Ellis of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia said the possible long sentence for Manafort under federal guidelines was "excessive" and said Manafort "has lived an otherwise blameless life."