A federal judge who became a Twitter target for President Trump staunchly defended the prosecutors’ handling of Roger Stone’s case and had harsh words for what she saw as the president’s attempts to influence sentencing as she handed down a 40-month prison sentence and $20,000 fine for the long-time Trump confidante and former campaign adviser.
Stone “was not prosecuted, as some
have complained, for standing up for the president. He was prosecuted for
covering up for the president,” federal district court Judge Amy Berman Jackson
said, noting “there was nothing unfair, phony or disgraceful about the
investigation or the prosecution.”
The flamboyant presidential adviser, who prosecutors condemned
for a “direct and brazen attack on the rule of law,” was convicted last fall on
seven counts, including obstruction, witness tampering and lying to Congress.
Trump Deputy Campaign Manager and convicted felon Rick Gates, had testified
during the trial that Stone served as a liaison between the Trump
campaign and WikiLeaks, which published a steady stream of hacked DNC emails,
stolen by Russia and used to damage Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in
Last week, just a
day after prosecutors recommended Stone get a seven-to-nine-year sentence for
charges stemming from Robert Mueller’s Russian probe, Attorney General William
Barr stepped in and a new sentencing memo reduced its recommendation to two to
four years. The intervention, considered highly unusual, prompted withdrawals
and resignations from four prosecutors associated with the case and drew strong
criticism from lawmakers and legal experts, who said the move gave the
appearance of Barr heeding the president’s desire that Justice go easy on Stone.
Trump praised Barr’s intervention, then trained his focus on Jackson in a
sustained Twitter assault.
“Is this the
Judge that put Paul Manafort in SOLITARY CONFINEMENT, something that not even
mobster Al Capone had to endure? How did she treat Crooked Hillary Clinton?
Just asking!” Trump tweeted
at one point.
Berman said in court Thursday the comments didn’t
sway her. “The court cannot
be influenced by those comments,” she said, calling them “entirely
inappropriate,” but saying she didn’t “hold them against” Stone, either.
“This case also exemplifies why it is that this system, for
good reason, demands that [sentencing] responsibility falls on someone neutral.
Someone whose job may involve issuing opinions in favor of and against the same
administration in the same week,” said Jackson. “Not someone who has a
longstanding friendship with the defendant. Not someone whose political career
was aided by the defendant. And surely not someone whose personal involvement
underlined the case.”
Jackson said that while the original sentencing recommendation
was well-crafted and documented, the guidance was too harsh and she decided on
a lesser sentence for Stone, who she called “an insecure person, who craves and
recklessly pursues attention.”