(CNN) — George Nader, who was a key witness in the Russia investigation and informally advised President Donald Trump’s team on foreign policy, was sentenced on Friday to 10 years in prison by a federal judge in Virginia, stemming from his convictions on child sex charges.
The sentence was announced by Judge Leonie Brinkema, closing a disturbing case that exposed Nader’s double life as a pedophile who also advised top US and Middle Eastern officials.
Earlier this year, Nader pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography that depicted sexual abuse of minors and admitted bringing an underage boy to the US for sex. These crimes occurred years before the 2016 election, when Nader worked his way into Trump’s orbit and served as an informal foreign policy adviser to the transition, attending high-level meetings.
Nader, 61, has already been in jail for more than a year and could apply for “compassionate release” because of the pandemic after he is formally transferred to a federal prison, the judge said.
As part of a plea deal, the Justice Department agreed to recommend that Nader only receive the mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison.
A Middle East specialist with connections to powerful figures throughout the region, Nader attended diplomatic meetings between foreign officials and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, former chief strategist Steve Bannon and former national security adviser Michael Flynn. He “helped arrange” Trump’s first international trip to Saudi Arabia in 2017, his lawyers said.
These meetings later fell under the shadow of the Russia investigation, and Nader became an important cooperator for special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Nader provided information about secret contacts between the Trump transition and a senior Russian government official, and his testimony was cited dozens of times in Mueller’s sweeping report.
Nader’s criminal case can be traced back to January 2018, when FBI agents working for Mueller stopped him at a Washington, DC-area airport for questioning. While examining his phones, they found a dozen sexually explicit videos of underage boys, according to an FBI affidavit in court filings. He agreed to help Mueller and was permitted to leave the US, but was arrested when he returned in 2019.
Nader ‘deceived and abused me,’ victim says
Prosecutors say Nader is a lifelong pedophile. He first faced accusations of this nature in 1984, but charges were dropped. He pleaded guilty in 1991 to transporting child pornography, and was convicted in the Czech Republic in 2003 of paying for sex with several underage boys.
He was also accused of possessing highly disturbing footage of toddlers being sexually abused, though prosecutors dropped those charges as part of Nader’s plea agreement.
In legal briefs, Nader’s lawyers dispute that their client is a pedophile, writing that “there is zero evidence he has any attraction to pre-pubescent males,” but concede that he had been “sexually attracted to adolescent males” since his teenage years.
One of Nader’s victims addressed the court on Friday in a video feed from the Czech Republic.
Nader admitted bringing the boy to the US for sex in 2000 when he was 14 years old. Speaking through an interpreter, the victim said Friday that Nader “deceived and abused me” and “stole practically my whole life” by subjecting him to sexual abuse. “I hated myself and was ashamed of myself,” he said, and there are still painful memories “that I will carry to my death.”
As part of his sentence, Nader will pay $150,000 to the victim, who told the court that the abuse forced him to drop out of school and that he spent his savings to fly to the US to help the FBI.
In asking the judge to stick to the 10-year sentence, Nader’s lawyers said there is “a real fear that he will not outlive the sentence” because of his health problems and the coronavirus pandemic. They also touted his extensive resumé and diplomatic efforts in the Middle East.
Nader spoke briefly during the hearing and asked for forgiveness. He said he offered his “greatest, sincere apology” and that he was “dearly, deeply sorry for the pain and suffering I have caused.” He also said the past year living in jail was “the most difficult of my life.”
“The only human relationship I have here is with my attorney and some other inmates and guards in the jail,” Nader said, adding that most of his relatives are in his native Lebanon.
Nader said in court Friday that he has made a “true effort to stay on the correct path,” and his lawyers said there is a “virtually non-existent” chance that he will re-offend. In recent filings, they said Nader “has shown his ability to control this behavior in recent years.”
He has been housed at the jail in Alexandria, Virginia, but will likely be transferred to a federal prison at some point soon.