- A federal judge on Thursday sentenced Roger Stone, a longtime GOP strategist and Trump ally, to 40 months in prison. He was also ordered to pay a $US20,000 fine, serve two years of probation following his prison term, and perform 250 hours of community service.
- A jury convicted Stone in November of five counts of false statements, one count of obstruction of justice, and one count of witness tampering.
- Federal prosecutors initially recommended a sentence of seven to nine years, but senior Justice Department leadership overruled them and asked for a lighter sentence after the president publicly complained.
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A federal judge on Thursday sentenced Roger Stone, a longtime Republican political strategist and informal adviser to President Donald Trump, to 40 months in prison for witness tampering, false statements, and obstruction of justice.
Stone was also ordered to pay a $US20,000 fine, serve two years of probation after his sentence, and perform 250 hours of community service.
The special counsel Robert Mueller’s office last year charged Stone with one count of obstruction of justice, five counts of making false statements to the FBI and congressional investigators, and one count of witness tampering.
The charges were linked to Stone’s contacts with the radical pro-transparency group WikiLeaks and subsequent efforts to suppress witness testimony.
Stone’s indictment contained a slew of details about his false statements to Congress about interactions involving WikiLeaks; his extensive communications with the far-right commentator Jerome Corsi and the radio host Randy Credico about WikiLeaks’ document dumps in summer 2016; and his prolonged efforts to prevent Credico from testifying to Congress or turning over information to the FBI.
After Mueller formally wrapped up his Russia investigation last March, the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia took over Stone’s case. A jury convicted Stone of all seven counts in November.
“The defendant lied about a matter of great national and international significance. This is not campaign hijinks. This is not just Roger being Roger,” US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said as she sentenced Stone.
Jackson also refuted Trump’s attacks on federal prosecutors for bringing the case against Stone, saying that “there was nothing unfair, phony, or disgraceful about the investigation or the prosecution.”
Initially, the federal prosecutors in Stone’s case recommended a sentence of seven to nine years based on federal sentencing guidelines. But after Trump publicly complained on Twitter, calling the recommendation “horrible” and “unfair,” senior Justice Department leadership announced that they would reverse the initial recommendation, which they called “excessive and unwarranted,” and request a lighter sentence for Stone.
The highly unusual intervention prompted all the prosecutors on Stone’s case to either withdraw from the case or resign from the DOJ altogether.
Attorney General William Barr told ABC News that he had already decided to request a lighter sentence for Stone before Trump tweeted, but he said the president’s constant public comments made it “impossible” for him to do his job.
Still, the timing of the DOJ’s announcement raised questions and rankled former officials who accused the attorney general of catering to the president’s public demands.
“Can’t recall a worse day for DOJ and line prosecutors,” Jeffrey Cramer, a longtime former federal prosecutor who spent 12 years at the DOJ, told Insider. “A robbery in broad daylight in the middle of Chicago is more subtle than Barr’s obsession to shield Trump and his co-conspirators.”
At Stone’s sentencing hearing on Thursday, Jackson addressed the DOJ’s unusual move.
Jackson said that “for those of you who are new to this or woke up last week to the fact” that the sentencing guidelines are harsh, “I can assure you that defence attorneys and many judges have been making that point for a long time, but we don’t usually succeed in getting the government to agree.”
The judge also criticised Trump’s tweet about Stone’s sentencing as “entirely inappropriate.”
She added, however, that while the initial sentencing memo was “thorough, well researched, and supported,” a recommendation of seven to nine years “would be greater than necessary.”
Jens David Ohlin, a vice dean at Cornell Law School and an expert on criminal and constitutional law, told Insider that though Stone’s sentence was lighter than what was originally requested, it was still “substantial” and “much more than a slap on the wrist.”
“It sends a dual signal: that Stone’s criminality was significant, and also that the judicial system is independent,” he said. Now “all eyes are on Trump to see if he will immediately pardon Stone.”
Stone came onto the political scene in the 1980s, developing a reputation as a “dirty trickster” who often employed unsavoury tactics to help his clients. Stone established a Republican political consulting firm along with Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, and both men later became well-known lobbyists.
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