President Donald Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, was sentenced to three years in prison on Wednesday for crimes that included arranging payments during the 2016 election to silence women who claimed affairs with Trump after the President's onetime "fixer" attributed his offenses to "my duty to cover up his dirty deeds."
Cohen's sentence is the longest imposed to date on anyone connected to the President or stemming from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the election -- a probe that has consumed much of Trump's presidency and is poised to continue into the coming year.
Before a packed Manhattan courtroom, Cohen, who once pledged to "take a bullet" for Trump, professed to accept blame for his actions.
"I take full responsibility for each act that I pled guilty to: The personal ones to me and those involving the President of the United States of America," he said.
But Cohen also articulated a fateful trajectory that took him from the day he accepted a job with a "famous real-estate mogul whose business acumen I truly admired" to a period of "personal and mental incarceration" and finally to an actual prison sentence resulting from "blind loyalty to this man that led me to choose a path of darkness over light."
Trump, who for months has lashed out at Cohen for implicating him in the campaign finance crimes and speaking to prosecutors, declined to respond to questions from reporters at the White House following the sentencing. Trump's attorney, Rudy Giuliani, disputed the notion that Cohen was ever faithful to his former boss.
"It's not true he was blindly loyal to President," Giuliani said. "He was aggressively disloyal."
Cohen's sentence resulted from two cases. In August, he pleaded guilty in a Manhattan US attorney's case to two campaign-finance violations tied to payments he made or orchestrated to women during the campaign -- adult-film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal -- to stay silent about alleged sexual encounters with Trump.
Prosecutors have said that in executing the payments, Cohen "acted in coordination with and at the direction of" Trump, who has denied having the affairs with the two women. Cohen also pleaded guilty to five counts of tax fraud and one count of making false statements to a bank.
In late November, Cohen was charged in a separate case from the special counsel's office with one count of lying to Congress about how long discussions involving a proposed Trump Tower in Moscow had extended into the 2016 campaign.
On Wednesday, US District Judge William Pauley III sentenced Cohen to 36 months in prison for the case from New York federal prosecutors and two months for the special counsel's matter; the sentences will be served concurrently.
While the judge agreed with the special counsel's office that Cohen should receive some leniency for his efforts to provide information that was valuable to its investigation, Pauley criticized Cohen for his crimes, his lies and his willingness to commit both in his capacity as an attorney.
Pauley also ordered Cohen to pay $1.39 million in restitution, $500,000 in forfeiture and $100,000 in fines. He must report to prison on March 6.