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🚨 🚨 BREAKING: Roger Stone sentenced to 3 years 4 months in prison on seven criminal counts including obstruction of justice and witness tampering. @CourthouseNews

Stone Sentenced to 3 1/3 Years, in Line With Revised Proposal

By MEGAN MINEIRO | Published February 20, 2020 12:40 PM EST | Courthouse News | Posted Feb 20, 2020

WASHINGTON (CN) — Roger Stone, a longtime friend and ally of President Donald Trump, was sentenced Thursday to 40 months in prison, but speculation that the president may hand the self-proclaimed “dirty trickster” a get-out-of-jail-free card ensures the case stays rooted in the national spotlight.

The sentence handed down by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson just after noon aligns with the terms made more lenient with input from Justice Department higher-ups. Though prosecutors had originally recommended that Stone serve seven to nine years in prison, they updated the suggestion to three to four years less than 24 hours after President Donald Trump slammed their filing as a “miscarriage of justice.”

Gearing up to sentence Stone, Jackson broke her silence from the bench Thursday as she responded to last week’s direct attacks from Trump over Twitter.

“Unsurprisingly I have a lot to say,” the judge said.

Jackson pushed off cries from Stone’s supporters, the president among them, that the defendant had been vilified for his political activities while under investigation by the Justice Department.

“It arose because Roger Stone characteristically inserted himself smack in the middle of one of the most incendiary issues of the day,” she said.

Standing at the lectern in front of the judge, wearing a gray pinstriped suit, Stone rocked back and forth on his heels flanked by his attorneys as he awaited his sentence. In addition to three years, four months in prison, Stone was given a $20,000 fine and two years of probation.

In the intervening week, Democrats have said the whiplash over Stone’s case should be investigated, and a bulwark of more than 2,500 former Justice Department attorneys from both Democrat and Republican administrations called on Attorney General Bill Barr to resign.

Stone — a longtime conservative operative who first advised Trump to launch a run for the White House in 1998 — meanwhile renewed his push for a new trial. Though Jackson denied his first request Feb. 5, Stone filed a new motion on Feb. 14 in a move that could represent a bid to buy time while awaiting a presidential pardon. Jackson has agreed to defer the execution of Stone’s sentence, and to extend the time to file an appeal, until the motion has been resolved.

Providing the first insight into the internal politics that disrupted the Justice Department’s stance on the sentencing, the newly assigned assistant U.S. attorney on the case, John Crabb, came out with a strong assertion that Stone should be sent to prison.

“This prosecution was, and this prosecution is, righteous,” Crabb said.

All four federal prosecutors who brought the case to trial withdrew from the legal proceedings Feb. 11 amid reports that the Justice Department planned to reverse their sentence recommendation filed a day earlier. The exits included one prosecutor stepping down from his special assignment in Washington and another resigning as an assistant U.S. attorney.

Strongly rebuking the Justice Department for the shakeup, Judge Jackson told Crabb that she worried that he knew less about the case on record than just about everyone else in the courtroom.

The prosecutor apologized to the judge for the confusion and explained that there was a “miscommunication” between the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia and Attorney General Bill Bar.

“There is nothing in bad faith about what was done with the original trial team here,” Crabb told the judge.

But Jackson pressed him to explain the purported miscommunication, asking if Crabb was instructed to author the amended sentencing recommendation. The prosecutor apologized again, this time saying he could not elaborate on “internal deliberations.”

“The government has the utmost conference that we defer to the court and that the court will apply a just and fair sentence in this matter,” Crabb said.

A federal jury convicted Stone in November 2019 on charges related to obstruction, false testimony and witness tampering during the House investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The seven criminal counts brought by prosecutors working under then-special counsel Robert Mueller carried a maximum 50 years in prison, but under federal sentencing guidelines Stone was never expected to serve the lengthy prison sentence.

Leading up to the sentence, Jackson applied three guideline enhancements but rejected a fourth proposed by the government to apply a two-level increase. The enhancements spoke to Jackson’s conclusion that the offense was extensive in scope, or a “multi-year scheme” as the Justice Department argued in the original sentencing memo.

Jackson rejected the defense’s assertions meanwhile that Stone’s crimes were just a symptom of his flamboyant personality. She emphasized that even letters from Stone’s family and friends note that his proclivity for “incendiary activity.”

“This is intolerable to the administration of justice, and the court should not sit ideally by, shrug its shoulders and say, ‘Well, that is just Roger being Roger,” the judge said.

Another letter entreating Jackson not to imprison the defendant came from conservative radio host Randy Credico — the very witness Stone was convicted of tampering with. This conviction stems specifically from false testimony to the House Intelligence Committee that Credico was his middleman to Julian Assange at WikiLeaks.

Credico described Stone in his letter as “an insecure person who craves and recklessly pursues attention,” but Jackson said that the defendant exhibited flagrant disregard for the rule of law.

Less than 24 hours before Thursday’s hearing, new allegations about the Trump campaign’s ties to WikiLeaks emerged in London. Addressing the Westminster Magistrates’ Court where Assange is fighting extradition to the U.S. under the Espionage Act, lawyers for Assange dropped a bombshell claim that Trump had offered to pardon the WikiLeaks founder if he said that Russia was not tied to the Democratic National Committee email leaks that badly damaged Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign.

Top campaign advisers including former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon testified at Stone’s criminal trial last year that Stone was the campaign’s only inroad to WikiLeaks during the 2016 race to the White House.

Trump in the last week has called the Mueller investigation that led to convictions of several of his former advisers “badly tainted” and a scam, staunchly defending Stone and suggesting that he deserves a new trial.

Amid cries of political interference in a criminal prosecution, Trump has repeatedly denied having a hand in the Justice Department flipping its stance on Stone’s sentence. The president declined to comment on whether he plans to act on Article II, Section II, of the U.S. Constitution and grant the former campaign adviser a pardon.

Prosecutors introduced FBI phone records at trial that mapped 60 calls between Stone and Trump from January to November 2016 — including a conversation on an upcoming WikiLeaks dump of tens of thousands of the Russian-hacked emails — matched by hundreds of other calls by the defendant to top campaign aides in the year leading up to the presidential election.

In a document-heavy trial infused with damning testimony, the Justice Department presented a clearer picture than previously laid out by the FBI investigation of the Trump campaign’s strategic efforts to exploit the Russian-hacked email leaks as political kryptonite for the Clinton campaign.

“Mr. Stone indicated that WikiLeaks would be submitting or dropping information but no information on dates or anything of that nature,” Rick Gates, former campaign deputy, testified at trial.

Throughout those proceedings, prosecutors mounted evidence such as Gates’ account of a summer 2016 call between Stone and then-candidate Trump that undercut written statements Trump provided to Mueller during the investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia.

“I do not recall discussing WikiLeaks with [Stone], nor do I recall being aware of Mr. Stone having discussed WikiLeaks with individuals associated with my campaign,” Trump wrote.

Whether Stone serves any time behind bars at all, the political fallout surrounding his sentencing shows no signs of abating.

Democrats who accused the president last week of political corruption in the Stone sentencing called for investigations by the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Justice Department Inspector General’s Office.

In an uncommon break of judicial silence, the Federal Judges Association, an organization of nearly 1,100 voluntary members, met Wednesday  ahead of Stone’s sentencing to address the issues at play in Barr personally taking the lead on all cases of personal or political importance to President Trump.

Dug into the political underworld since joining the Richard Nixon campaign at the outset of his career as a GOP consultant, Stone promises to project front-stage in Washington as the remainder of his case concludes and Trump’s power to hand off a pardon remains in play.


This story is developing…


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