Justice Department to backtrack on request to give Trump ally Roger Stone up to 9 years in prison
The Justice Department will backtrack on its request that longtime President Trump confidant Roger Stone get up to nine years in prison, a senior department official said, contradicting its own federal prosecutors in a highly unusual and politically charged move.
The Justice Department will backtrack on its request that longtime Donald Trump confidante Roger Stone get up to nine years in prison, a senior department official said Tuesday, contradicting its own federal prosecutors in a highly unusual and politically charged move.
Prosecutors from the US Attorney’s office in Washington, who are employees of the Justice Department, had said Monday that Stone should be sentenced to seven to nine years in prison after he was convicted on seven charges last year that derived from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, including lying to Congress and witness tampering.
But on Tuesday, the senior official said that that sentencing recommendation, transmitted to a judge and signed off on by the office’s top prosecutor, had not been communicated to leadership at the Justice Department.
“The Department was shocked to see the sentencing recommendation,” the official told CNN. “The Department believes the recommendation is extreme and excessive and is grossly disproportionate to Stone’s offenses.”
A revised sentencing memorandum is expected to be filed in Washington federal court later Tuesday.
The reversal comes after Trump objected to the prosecutors’ recommendation, lambasting them on Twitter early Tuesday for what the President called a “horrible and very unfair situation.”
“The real crimes were on the other side, as nothing happens to them. Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice!” Trump said.
The official said that the change was directed by the leadership of the Justice Department, and that there had not been any coordination with the White House. The decision to submit a revised sentencing memorandum was made before the President’s tweet, the official said.
Grant Smith, an attorney for Stone, said they look forward to reviewing the government’s latest filing shortly.
“We have read with interest the new reporting on Roger Stone’s case. Our sentencing memo outlined our position on the recommendation made yesterday by the government. We look forward to reviewing the government’s supplemental filing,” Smith said in a statement. Stone’s attorneys had argued a sentence of 15 to 21 months would be appropriate.
Stone lied to Congress five times while testifying to the US House privately in September 2017 about his attempts to gain information from WikiLeaks and help Trump. Federal prosecutors have also argued that Stone’s lies to House investigators substantially interfered with their Russia investigation.
“Investigations into election interference concern our national security, the integrity of our democratic processes, and the enforcement of our nation’s criminal laws. These are issues of paramount concern to every citizen of the United States. Obstructing such critical investigations thus strikes at the very heart of our American democracy,” the prosecutors added.
Prosecutors also discussed how Stone pressured an associate to lie to Congress and slammed Stone for the “low regard in which he held these proceedings” in court. They revisited several episodes where Stone posted on social media or communicated with members of the media and right-wing radio host Alex Jones about his case and Mueller’s investigation while he was barred by the judge from speaking publicly.
Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who will sentence Stone on February 20, has broad authority to sentence him as she sees fit. One of the times Stone broke his gag order, the prosecution notes, directly involved her — when Stone posted an image on Instagram of crosshairs behind her head.
This story has been updated to include additional background information and comment from Stone’s attorney.