District Court Judge: ‘Public Criticism’ Will Not Impact Roger Stone Sentencing

Public pressure or criticism won’t affect the sentencing of former Donald Trump adviser Roger Stone, the chief district judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said.

“The judges of this court base their sentencing decisions on careful consideration of the actual record in the case before them; the applicable sentencing guidelines and statutory factors; the submissions of the parties, the Probation Office, and victims; and their own judgment and experience,” Judge Beryl Howell said in a rare statement sent to news outlets.

“Public criticism or pressure is not a factor,” she added.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who will be deciding on the sentence for Stone, works on the D.C. Circuit Court under Howell. Both judges were nominated by President Barack Obama.

Chief U.S. District Judge for the District of Columbia Beryl A. Howell at the U.S. District Court in Washington on April 13, 2018. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The case has generated renewed focus this week ahead of the Feb. 20 sentencing. The prosecutors on the case on Tuesday asked Jackson to sentence Stone to seven to nine years in jail, surprising high-level Department of Justice officials and prompting a new filing on Wednesday that called the recommendation “excessive.”

“I didn’t need anybody to tell me that seven to nine years was an excessive sentence,” Attorney General William Barr told ABC on Thursday.

Very few people, he said, suggest that the sentence would be appropriate. “There’s not really a comparable situation where that kind of sentence has been used,” Barr said.

Upset with the department’s fresh recommendation, the four prosecutors handling the case withdrew on Wednesday, with one resigning from his position altogether.

Attorney General William Barr speaks at a the National Sheriffs’ Association conference in Washington on Feb. 10, 2020. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

Howell’s rare statement came after President Donald Trump tweeted about the case multiple times, calling the recommendation “ridiculous” and directing ire toward Judge Jackson. He also noted that some of the prosecutors on the case were part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s team.

After the new filing by the Department of Justice, Trump congratulated Barr “for taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have even been brought.” Barr told ABC that Trump has “never asked me to do anything in a criminal case,” adding, “I think it’s time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases”

The White House said officials have “full faith” in Barr after his comments.

Also on Wednesday, Jackson unsealed a ruling she made last week denying Stone a new trial. Stone argued that a juror who shouldn’t have been on the jury heard the case, but Jackson said Stone failed to establish “inherent bias.”

President Donald Trump outside the White House in a file photograph. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

Hours after the ruling was made public, the forewoman of Stone’s jury went public in defense of the prosecutors who withdrew from the case. Tomeka Hart said she was pained to see the Department of Justice “interfere with the hard work of the prosecutors,” who “acted with the utmost intelligence, integrity, and respect for our system of justice.”

“The prosecutors who have now resigned did a masterful job of laying out every element of every charge, backed with ample evidence,” Hart, a former Democratic congressional candidate, wrote on Facebook. “As foreperson, I made sure we went through every element, or every charge, matching the evidence presented in the case that led us to return a conviction of guilty on all seven counts.”

After Hart identified herself as the head juror, social media users and journalists found a number of posts she’d made expressing animus toward the president. According to a court transcript of what she said during the jury selection process, she also misled the court.

At one point, she was asked what she had heard or read about Stone. “I don’t have a whole lot of details,” she said as part of the answer. “I don’t pay that close attention or watch C-SPAN.”

On Twitter, Hart wrote in one missive that tagged Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.): “Watching C-SPAN now. Thank you for being a voice of reason—at least for trying!”

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Author: Zachary Stieber