Judge: Roger Stone Will Be Sentenced Thursday Despite His Ongoing Bid To Overturn Conviction

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Republican strategist Roger Stone, a close friend of President Donald Trump, will be sentenced Thursday despite his ongoing efforts to overturn the guilty verdicts against him, a federal judge in Washington federal court ruled.

“There’s been a lot of work that’s gone into the sentencing,” U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said Tuesday. “It makes sense to proceed.”

Jackson said that “execution of the sentence will be deferred” while she decides whether Stone deserves a new trial.

“I’m willing to make sure that there are no consequences that flow from the announcement of what the sentencing will be,” she said.

Prosecutors on Tuesday filed under seal a motion opposing Stone’s request, and the filing was approved by Attorney General William Barr, said a Justice Department official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

That appears to put Barr at odds with Trump, who on Tuesday quoted a Fox News segment arguing that Stone should get a new trial. Trump said last week that the jury forewoman in the case had “significant bias.”

Stone, 67, was convicted last year of lying to Congress about his attempts to get details from Hillary Clinton’s private emails from the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks. Prosecutors said Stone intimidated a friend who could contradict his testimony.

As his Thursday sentencing has drawn near, the longtime GOP operative has twice argued that he deserves a new trial. Jackson rejected his first such demand earlier this month, saying she found no evidence that a juror who worked for the Internal Revenue Service was biased.

His latest motion remains sealed, and defense attorney Seth Ginsberg said in court Tuesday only that “this issue goes to the heart of the case and is such a fundamental issue.”

“It is possible that the entire proceeding might have been different” had it been addressed earlier, Ginsberg said in arguing for a sentencing delay.

“This motion should be handled expeditiously, but I also don’t think it should be handled in a rushed fashion,” the judge said. After sentencing, she said, there will be “ample time.”

The Trump administration’s intervention in Stone’s case has roiled the Justice Department and the federal judiciary. Trump has repeatedly attacked the prosecutors, judge and jury, and on Tuesday, Trump sent tweets suggesting that “everyone” involved in prosecuting the case could be sued.

All four of the prosecutors who handled the case withdrew last week after Barr publicly overruled their recommendation that Stone serve seven to nine years in prison. The suggestion of a more lenient sentence that came after Trump complained about the initial recommendation raised questions about whether the White House was meddling in prosecutions and eroding the independence of the Justice Department.

More than 1,100 former Justice Department employees subsequently signed a public letter urging Barr to resign, and the head of the Federal Judges Association has called an emergency meeting to discuss the situation.

Trump has also derided the prosecution of his first national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, for lying to the FBI. Flynn, who is attempting to withdraw his admission of guilt, filed a motion Tuesday suggesting Barr agrees the case was improperly handled.

“It is not settled that there was a valid predicate for any investigation of Mr. Flynn,” defense attorneys wrote, citing Barr’s public criticism of the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign. “Barr … publicly stated [his] contrary position.”

Barr was speaking about another aspect of the Russia investigation and did not mention Flynn in those comments. But the attorney general has assigned Jeff Jensen, the U.S. attorney in St. Louis, to review and “assist” prosecutors currently handling the case.

On Tuesday, the Justice Department was represented in court by two senior prosecutors from the U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Columbia: John Crabb, the acting chief of the criminal division, and J.P. Cooney, the head of the fraud unit. They agreed with Jackson that sentencing should go forward this week.

The basis of Stone’s most recent request for a new trial remains under seal, but came after the president criticized the jury forewoman in the case.

Tomeka Hart, a former president of the Memphis City Schools Board of Commissioners, identified herself as the forewoman in a Facebook post, saying she “can’t keep quiet any longer” in the wake of the Justice Department’s efforts to seek a more lenient sentence for Stone than the seven to nine years recommended by front-line prosecutors.

Although Hart was not named at the trial, the juror’s identity was always known to both Stone’s defense and prosecutors throughout the proceedings. She disclosed her background, including a bid for Congress, in public pretrial jury selection. Stone’s attorneys and his trial judge had the opportunity to question Hart directly and challenge her eligibility at the time.

Stone’s defense team has asked for a sentence of probation, citing his age and lack of criminal history. At trial, they argued that any inaccuracies in his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee were irrelevant because the Trump campaign never succeeded in getting information from WikiLeaks, and that his threats to his friend Randy Credico were not serious.

Prosecutors said that defense was not only inadequate but corrosive to society.

“If that’s the state of affairs that we’re in, I’m pretty shocked,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Marando told jurors in his closing argument. “Truth matters. Truth still matters.

 (c) 2020, The Washington Post · Rachel Weiner, Matt Zapotosky 

{Matzav.com}

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