Court Battles

DOJ denies giving Stone special treatment over prison sentence delay

The Department of Justice (DOJ) late Thursday told a federal judge that it was backing Roger Stone’s request to delay the start of his prison sentence because of his health issues that put him at risk to the coronavirus, denying that the former Trump adviser was receiving special treatment.

Prosecutors in the D.C. U.S. attorney’s office said in a court filing that it was adhering to the DOJ’s directive not to oppose reasonable delays in sentencing amid the pandemic.

Stone is scheduled to report to begin his 40-month prison sentence on June 30, and earlier this week, he asked to push the start date back 60 days.

“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 [the Bureau of Prisons] should revise the June 30 surrender date,” the filing reads.

The court filing comes in response to U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson demanding to know why the DOJ had not opposed Stone’s effort to delay his sentence.

Stone is facing three years and four months at a federal prison in Jesup, Ga., after a jury convicted him on seven counts of obstruction and witness tampering stemming from his testimony to Congress about his efforts to serve as a liaison between the 2016 Trump campaign and WikiLeaks. He’s appealing his sentence and Jackson’s denial of his motion for a new trial.

Stone’s prison term is looming amid a political battle over allegations that Attorney General William Barr has politicized the DOJ and worked to protect the president’s interests and allies.

On Wednesday, Congress heard whistleblower testimony from Aaron Zelinsky, one of the original prosecutors in Stone’s case. 

Zelinsky and other prosecutors withdrew from the case after the department overruled their recommendation that the longtime GOP operative serve between seven and nine years in prison.

Zelinsky alleged that DOJ leadership intervened in the case to recommend a lighter sentence because of Stone’s ties to the president.

“What I saw was that Roger Stone was being treated differently from every other defendant,” Zelinsky told the House Judiciary Committee. “He received breaks that are, in my experience, unheard of and all the more so for a defendant in his circumstances — a defendant who lied to Congress, remained unrepentant and who made threats against a judge and a witness in his case.”

The DOJ has denied that it gave Stone special treatment or that politics played a role in its decisionmaking.

Tags Aaron Zelinsky Amy Berman Jackson Department of Justice Roger Stone William Barr

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