‘Roger Stone is the worst person to ever walk the face of the Earth,’a middle-aged man in a suit said to no one in particular in the green room at WJLA, a local ABC station, in Washington, DC.
I, for one, could think of more than a few people who are probably worse than Stone, but opted to keep my mouth shut to avoid ramping up tensions before the show even started. It turns out my efforts were for naught, because I ended up on a panel with a deranged woman who was aghast at the notion that anyone could believe nine years is a terribly long sentence for someone convicted of a non-violent crime.
Stone was found guilty in November 2019 on charges of lying to Congress, witness tampering, and obstruction of a House investigation. The verdict may sound bad on its face, but let’s remember the context here: Stone was the last domino to fall as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia — of which Mueller found none. The famously OTT early morning FBI raid at Stone’s house to arrest him was even more evidence that he was part of a political dog-and-pony show rather than a legitimate criminal target.
Stone’s crimes essentially amounted to exaggerating about his own contacts with Wikileaks, a move he made presumably to garner influence with Trump campaign officials, who wanted to know when hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) were set to be released. The crux of the prosecution’s case is that Stone lied by naming Randy Credico — who? — as his intermediary to Wikileaks.
Never mind the fact that Stone likely never would have testified in front of Congress if it weren’t for the Democrats’ insane Russian collusion fishing expedition, but does the average human being actually think it’s reasonable to recommend a 67-year-old man go to prison for nearly a decade because he fibbed?
Prosecutors in Stone’s case claimed the sentence was deserved because foreign election interference is the most deadly adversary of republican government, but failed to mention that Stone was never found guilty of conspiring with Russia or Wikileaks. They also pointed to aggressive messages Stone sent to Credico, downplaying the fact that Credico said he never believed Stone intended to carry out any threats and recommended probation rather than jail time for his former friend.
Nonetheless, some would rather see the government lock him up and throw away the key for the sole reason that he is an ally of President Donald Trump. As my fellow panelist on WJLA, a Democratic strategist, cried, ‘Roger Stone committed crimes!’ — as if the act of committing any crime means you deserve whatever draconian consequence is handed down to you.
The justice system should be in the business of ensuring sentences are commensurate with the offense. I am sure that the progressives cheering Stone’s recommended sentence (you know, the same ones who advocate for criminal justice reform) would be appalled at a similar recommendation for other non-violent crimes, like drug possession or shoplifting. Meanwhile, the average rapist in America serves just four years in prison. Anthony Weiner, a Democrat, was notably sentenced to just 21 months for sending photos of his penis to a minor. Isn’t that worse?
Perhaps most concerning is that new details suggest Stone was not even granted a fair trial. The lead juror in his case, Tomeka Hart, was a Democratic candidate for Congress in 2012, routinely followed the Russian collusion investigation via social media, and had posted numerous negative stories about Trump, including calling him the ‘#KlanPresident’. In January 2019, Hart retweeted a CNN analyst admonishing people who took issue with the FBI raid on Stone’s home after his indictment.
Are we really supposed to believe, as Hart claimed in court, that she did not ‘pay that close attention’ to the Russia probe and that her views of Trump wouldn’t affect her opinion of Stone? Judge Amy Berman Jackson, an Obama appointee responsible for putting Paul Manafort in solitary confinement, has denied Stone a new trial based on allegations that Hart was a biased juror. Jackson also implemented a rather unusual full gag order on Stone during the trial, preventing him from speaking about any aspects of the case.
The facts all seem to add up to Stone being railroaded over his political inclinations.
President Trump has since weighed in on the sentencing recommendations, calling it ‘a phony Mueller Witch Hunt disgrace.’ This has led people who can’t defend the sentencing recommendations to instead cry foul on the president’s involvement in the case, accusing him of putting his finger on the scale of justice. Even Attorney General Bill Barr alleged that the president was making it ‘impossible’ for him to do his job.
While the president’s public outbursts may be out of the ordinary, it seems unlikely his pressure affected the Department of Justice at all. The DOJ had apparently already planned on revising the sentencing guidelines before he ever tweeted, with one official claiming the department was ‘shocked’ at the up to nine years suggestion, and AG Barr indicating he had never spoken personally to the president about the case.
‘The Department finds seven to nine years extreme, excessive and grossly disproportionate to Mr Stone’s offenses,’ an official told Fox News.
For now, at least, it seems the DOJ will right this miscarriage of justice. If not, the president can and should step in.