News

Roger Stone sentenced to over 3 years in prison as judge slams him for ‘covering up for’ Trump

Roger Stone, former adviser to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, center, and his wife Nydia Stone arrive at federal court in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020. (Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg via Getty Images)

A federal judge sentenced President Donald Trump’s friend, the longtime Republican operative Roger Stone, to more than 3 years in prison on Thursday for lying to Congress and tampering with a witness in an effort to protect Trump.

“He was not prosecuted, as some have complained, for standing up for the president, he was prosecuted for covering up for the president,” said Judge Amy Berman Jackson about Stone, who showed no visible emotion when he was sentenced.

“The truth still exists, the truth still matters. Roger Stone’s insistence that it doesn’t … are a threat to our most fundamental institutions,” Jackson said in a blistering denunciation of Stone, in which she repeatedly mentioned “dismay and digust” about his crimes.

But Stone, 67, will not have to serve Jackson’s sentence of 40 months in prison yet — and possibly not at all.

Jackson suspended the imposition of the sentence pending her ruling on a request by Stone that he be granted a new trial on the grounds of alleged juror misconduct at his trial last fall.

If Jackson approves that request, the sentence that she announced in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., will be void.

Stone, whose lawyers had requested a sentence of probation, also could be granted a pardon by Trump, who has been critical of the case against his former advisor. If Stone is pardoned, his conviction would be voided, along with any sentence.

In addition to the prison term, Jackson also ordered Stone to pay a $20,000 fine, serve two years of supervised release, and perform 250 hours of community service.

“I’m doing OK,” Stone told a reporter after leaving the sentencing, dressed in a black pinstripe suit, blue shirt and green tie.

Stone did not make a statement on his own behalf at the sentencing, a decision that could reflect his plans to appeal his conviction, and a wish to avoid harming his defense at a second trial.

Jackson dismissed arguments by Trump and other defenders of Stone that the the prosecution against him was politically motivated.

Jackson also called Trump’s tweets about Stone “inappropriate,” but also said she would not hold them against Stone.

She said that Stone, who reveled in cultivating a “dirty trickster” image, had “characteristically injected himself” in the issue of a hack of Democratic emails by Russian agents by claiming he had access to Julian Assange, co-founder of the document disclosure group WikiLeaks.

WikiLeaks ended up releasing those emails during the 2016 presidential election. Stone then lied to Congress a year later about his efforts to get access to those emails, the judge noted.

Jackson said that Stone lied because he knew that public disclosures that he was in touch with WikiLeaks would “reflect badly” on Trump.

Jackson early in the hearing ruled against most arguments by Stone’s attorneys related to the calculation of federal sentencing guidelines, which provide judges with possible framework on which to base their punishment of a defendant.

Jackson said Stone should be penalized in that calculation for threatening violence against a witness in the case and that witness’s dog, and for obstructing a House committee’s work in investigating Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The judge said the guidelines in Stone’s case called for a prison term of between 70 and 87 months. But she later said those guidelines appeared to be too harsh to actually be applied.

Thursday’s sentencing came after more than a week of controversy over Stone’s case, and accusations that Attorney General William Barr and Trump improperly interfered in the case due to political considerations and because of Trump’s relationship with Stone.

Barr forced the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, whose office prosecuted Stone, to recommend a more lenient prison term for the political operative than the seven to nine years that trial prosecutors originally proposed. The four prosecutors for Stone’s trial quit the case on the heels of that decision.

John Crabbe, the new prosecutor in the case, apologized Thursday to Jackson for what he called “confusion” over the sentencing recommendation. Crabbe also said that the first recommendation “was done in good faith,” and also said that “this prosecution is righteous.”

But Crabbe also told the judge that he was not free to discuss who wrote the second sentencing memo that had recommended a less steep term in prison for Stone. Crabbe had signed that memo.

The new prosecutor also did not object to Jackson including a set of “enhancements” to Stone’s sentencing guidelines that called for a prison term as high as 87 months.

Shortly after the sentencing hearing began Thursday, Trump tweeted about Stone.

Stone was convicted at trial in November of charges related to false statements he gave a House committee in 2017.

The statements were related to his contacts with Trump’s campaign during the 2016 presidential election, as Stone sought to get information about emails stolen by Russian agents from Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager and the Democratic National Committee.

Those emails, which were seen as embarrassing to the Democratic nominee Clinton, were made public by WikiLeaks.

Stone also was convicted of witness tampering for threatening an associate, the comedian Randy Credico, in an effort to get him to corroborate his lies to Congress. Stone had falsely claimed that Credico was his conduit to WikiLeaks.

Prosecutors said at Stone’s trial that he kept Trump’s camp aware of what he had learned about WikiLeaks’ plans for releasing the emails. But Stone had told the House committee he had no such conversations with the Trump campaign about WikiLeaks.

The case was lodged in early 2019 by then special counsel Robert Mueller’s office. Mueller previously obtained convictions of Stone’s former business partner, Paul Manafort, who headed Trump’s 2016 campaign for several months.

Manafort, who currently is serving a 7-1/2-year prison sentence, was convicted of financial crimes related to his work for a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine. That work occurred before his tenure on the Trump campaign.

Another former business partner of Manafort’s, ex-Trump campaign official Rick Gates, testified at Stone’s trial that Trump talked to Stone about WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign, and that Gates himself had spoken with Stone about information expected to be released by WikiLeaks.

A year earlier, in November 2018, Trump in written answers to Mueller, said, “I do not recall discussing WikiLeaks with” Stone, “nor do I recall Mr. Stone having discussed WikiLeaks with my campaign.”

Gates was sentenced by Jackson in December to 45 days in jail for conspiracy and for making a false statement. Those crimes related to his work in Ukraine with Manafort.

Stone’s former associate Credico, in a letter to Jackson last month, said that sending Stone to prison would be “cruelty.”

Credico urged the judge to give Stone a sentence of probation for the five counts of false statements, and one count each of obstruction of proceedings and witness tampering.

Four prosecutors who handled his trial for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia early last week urged Jackson in a court filing to sentence Stone.

Trump almost immediately blasted that recommendation on Twitter. Hours later, the Justice Department, under Barr’s leadership, said it would file a new sentencing memo for Stone.

The U.S. Attorney for DC, Timothy Shea, later filed that memo, which called on Jackson to give Stone “far less” time in prison, and said that the original sentencing recommendation “could be considered excessive and unwarranted under the circumstances.”

The four trial prosecutors promptly quit the case in protest that same day. One resigned from the Justice Department altogether.

More than 2,000 former Justice Department employees have publicly called on Barr to resign for his reversal of the career prosecutors’ sentencing recommendation.

“Each of us strongly condemns President Trump’s and Attorney General Barr’s interference in the fair administration of justice,” the letter said, specifically citing the Stone case.

CNBC