Federal Judge Denies Roger Stone’s Request to Delay Sentencing

Judge Amy Berman Jackson denied Stone’s request to delay the start of his sentence until Sept. 3, instead giving Stone just over two weeks to report to FCI-Jesup.

A federal judge has ordered longtime Donald Trump confidant Roger Stone to prison on July 14 and into home confinement until then, citing Stone’s own evidence of medical issues that he cited to request a delay of his June 30 surrender date to begin a 40-month jail term.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson denied Stone’s request to delay the start of his sentence until Sept. 3, instead giving Stone just over two weeks to report to FCI-Jesup.

“This will address the defendant’s stated medical concerns during the current increase of reported cases in Florida, and Broward County in particular, and it will respect and protect the health of other inmates who share defendant’s anxiety over the potential introduction and spread of the virus at this now-unaffected facility,” Jackson said in a brief order accompanying her decision.

Federal judge strongly rejects Roger Stone’s plea

Jackson said she intends to make a fuller opinion public next week barring any objections by Stone or the prosecutors in the case. But for now, her order stands as a sharp rejection of Stone’s plea.

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Jackson sentenced Stone to his 40-month jail term in February following his conviction on charges of repeatedly lying to Congress and intimidating a witness to impede the House’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

After his sentencing, Stone’s attorney urged the Bureau of Prisons to consider Stone’s health when setting his surrender date, and BOP responded by agreed to bring him in on June 30. But earlier this week, Stone moved to delay his report date another two months, citing the risk of coronavirus in federal prisons.

Jackson immediately began a searching inquiry into the matter, pressing Stone and the U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Columbia for details on Stone’s request to obtain a delay. She also asked for details about coronavirus spread in FCI-Jesup.

What she received was evidence that no cases had appeared in the Georgia facility, a fact she emphasized in her order. A July 14 report date, she noted, affords the defendant seventy-five days beyond his original report date.

Jackson also pointedly intimated that inmates in the facility where Stone is facing incarceration might have as much to fear about Stone introducing coronavirus — after spending time traveling and in Florida, a recent hotspot for coronavirus — than he does about contracting it there. Her order will send Stone to his home for about two weeks, the standard self-quarantine period for those potentially exposed to coronavirus.

Jackson’s order came despite prosecutors’ indication they had no objection to Stone’s request for another 60-day delay in his surrender date, citing department-wide policies implemented in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is currently the U.S. Department of Justice’s policy … to not oppose a defendant’s request to extend a voluntary surrender date for up to 60 days, unless the defendant poses an immediate public safety or flight risk,” the U.S. attorney’s office for Washington, D.C., said in a late-night filing. “For that reason—and that reason only—the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia does not oppose defendant Roger J. Stone’s request to extend his voluntary surrender date for up to 60 days”

Roger Stone claims he would face severe health risks behind bars

In his request, the 67-year-old Stone cited the health risks he would face behind bars. And in a series of Instagram posts, Stone ratcheted up the rhetoric, claiming he would be facing “certain” death if his jail sentence continues as scheduled.

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Jackson, though, made clear quickly that she isn’t accepting Stone’s contention at face value. After Stone’s initial motion to delay his sentence, Jackson ordered the U.S. attorney’s office for Washington, D.C. — which prosecuted the case — to submit its own filing weighing in on the matter and also to provide details about recent coronavirus testing at the federal prison.

In a subsequent order on Wednesday, Jackson also asked the government to show her any existing Justice Department or U.S. attorney policies about how to handle defendants who request delays in their surrender dates because of coronavirus.

And on Thursday, Jackson inquired further, ordering Stone to provide details about what he told the Bureau of Prisons which set his June 30 reporting date after Jackson denied his motion for a new trial in mid-April.

In its filing, the U.S. attorney’s office indicated that Stone’s legal team had asked the Bureau of Prisons for the June 30 date on April 17, citing Stone’s health and the risk of coronavirus. BOP agreed.

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“At no point since that original designation has the U.S. Attorney’s Office had any role in or attempted to exert any influence over whether BOP should revise the June 30 surrender date,” the government said in its Thursday night filing.

While prosecutors said the two-month delay was consistent with Bureau of Prisons guidance issued in March, they did not provide the judge with a copy of that policy.

When POLITICO asked the Bureau of Prisons in March whether virus-related concerns had prompted delays in defendants’ dates to begin their prison terms, a spokesman replied: “Individuals with questions about voluntary surrender should consult their attorneys and the U.S. Marshals Service for direction.”

Given the history of Stone’s case, Jackson appears to be deeply distrustful of both sides, demanding detailed justification and written support from the defense and prosecution for the kinds of assertions that judges often accept based solely on a lawyers’ say-so.

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A former prosecutor on Stone’s case, Aaron Zelinsky, added to the air of intrigue surrounding the matter when he told Congress this week that he came under repeated political pressure to give Stone a “break” during his February sentencing on his conviction for serially lying to Congress and intimidating a witness to impede a House probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Stone also fueled suspicion about his situation by indicating in one of his Instagram videos that his request to delay his June 30 report date had been rejected by the U.S. attorney’s office, while in Stone’s court filing on Tuesday, his lawyers indicated that the U.S. attorney had no objection to a two-month delay.

Attorney General William Barr has rejected the suggestion that politics or Trump favoritism played a role in his decision to overrule Zelinsky and other prosecutors to recommend a lesser sentence for Stone.

“I was the decision maker in that case because there was a dispute,” Barr told NPR on Thursday. “And usually what happens is, disputes, especially in high profile cases, come up to the attorney general. It’s not unusual for there to be a dispute in a high profile case and for it to be resolved by the attorney general.”

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But Zelinsky told Congress the circumstances were virtually unprecedented. Four line prosecutors handling the case relied on standard sentencing guidelines to recommend on Feb. 10 a seven to nine year sentence for Stone, a sentence they said reflected his prolonged obstruction of an investigation crucial to national security. Trump tweeted just before 3 a.m. the next day that the sentence was unfair, and later that day, a top DOJ official filed a revised sentencing recommendation that left the jail term up to the judge but called the original proposal overly harsh. The four prosecutors who handled the case withdrew, and one resigned from DOJ altogether.

Though there was wide agreement that the recommendation for a 67-year-old first-time offender was steep, Jackson acknowledged that the prosecutors were largely bound by the sentencing guidelines. She questioned the effort by DOJ leaders to overrule the line prosecutors and said they had largely calculated correctly, but she ultimately opted for a shorter sentence that she said was more appropriate.

President Trump has also indicated he’s planning to pardon or commute Stone’s sentence, saying on Twitter that Stone can “sleep well.”

“Roger was a victim of a corrupt and illegal Witch Hunt, one which will go down as the greatest political crime in history,” Trump tweeted in response to a supporter’s call to “RT for a full pardon of Roger Stone.” “He can sleep well at night!”

On Saturday, Trump retweeted a petition calling for a Stone pardon.

The Bureau of Prisons’ web page tracking coronavirus outbreaks in the federal prison system does not report any past or present cases among prisoners or staff at Jesup. An official update posted online Thursday said 20 prisoners there had been tested and come back negative while ten tests remain outstanding, but prosecutors said in their filing that all of the administered tests were negative.

Nationwide, about 6,400 federal prisoners have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and 89 have died.

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Author: Alexander Massaad

Hard Working, Diligent and Productive. America needs answers and it takes a sufficient amount of grit, heart, and courage to lead them towards the truth.

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