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.
Former 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 2016.
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.”