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Agencies
February 22, 2020

Trump’s adviser Stone sentenced to 40 months in jail

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A
Agencies
February 22, 2020

WASHINGTON: A federal judge on Friday sentenced President Donald Trump’s long-time adviser Roger Stone to three years and four months (40 months) in prison and said his lies to lawmakers investigating Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election posed a threat to American democracy.

After US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson sentenced the veteran Republican operative in Washington, Trump indicated he has no immediate plans to pardon Stone and would let the legal process play out, while adding that “at some point I’ll make a determination.”

“I personally think he was treated very unfairly,” Trump said in Las Vegas.

In a stern lecture during a 2-1/2-hour sentencing hearing, Jackson delivered an implicit rebuke to Trump, who has attacked her along with the jury and prosecutors in the high-profile case.

“There was nothing unfair, phony or disgraceful about the investigation or the prosecution,” Jackson said, citing words that the Republican president has used. Stone’s lawyer had asked that he get no prison time. The 67-year-old Stone, who has been a friend and adviser to Trump for decades, was convicted on Nov. 15 on all seven counts of lying to Congress, obstruction of justice and witness tampering.

“He was not prosecuted - as some have complained - for standing up for the president. He was prosecuted for covering up for the president,” Jackson said.

“The truth still exists. The truth still matters,” Jackson added. “Roger Stone’s insistence that it doesn’t, his belligerence, his pride in his own lies are a threat to our fundamental institutions - to the very foundation of our democracy.”

The judge also said Stone “knew exactly what he was doing” when he posted an image on social media last year with a gun’s cross-hairs placed over her head.

“The defendant engaged in threatening and intimidating conduct toward the court,” Jackson said. “This is intolerable to the administration of justice.” Stone declined to speak at the hearing. Clad in a dark gray pinstripe suit with a polka dot handkerchief in the pocket, Stone stood at a lectern as the judge delivered the sentence. After leaving, Stone - still subject to a judicial gag order - told reporters, “I have nothing to say.” In a chaotic scene outside the courthouse, Stone walked through a throng of people with a slight smile on his face and climbed into a waiting vehicle.

Stone’s lawyers have asked Jackson for a new trial, and his allies have complained that some of the jurors have expressed anti-Trump sentiments on social media. Some Trump’s allies have urged him to pardon Stone. At a Las Vegas event for rehabilitated prisoners, Trump praised Stone as a “good person” and “smart guy” while repeating his claim that the trial’s jury forewoman was “totally tainted.” Trump said he would not use the presidency’s “great powers” as Stone seeks a new trial, but left open the possibility of a pardon. “I’m going to watch the process. I’m going to watch it very closely,” Trump said.

Democrats said a pardon would be a green light for others to break the law to further Trump’s interests.

“To pardon Stone when his crimes were committed to protect Trump would be a breathtaking act of corruption,” Democratic Representative Adam Schiff, who led the impeachment drive against Trump that ended in his Senate acquittal this month, wrote on Twitter.

On Tuesday, Trump granted clemency to prominent convicted white-collar criminals including financier Michael Milken and former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Jackson’s sentence fell well short of the seven to nine years initially recommended by the case’s original prosecutors before they were overruled by the Justice Department after Trump complained publicly. Those prosecutors quit the case. Jackson, appointed by Trump’s Democratic predecessor Barack Obama, said the department’s reversal did not influence her sentencing decision. The judge also fined Stone $20,000.

“This was still a very substantial sentence, especially for a non-violent, first-time offender of his age,” said Mark Allenbaugh, a consultant who formerly worked for the US Sentencing Commission.

Stone was one of several Trump associates who were convicted or pleaded guilty to charges stemming from former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation that detailed Russian meddling in the 2016 election to boost Trump’s candidacy.

He was convicted of lying to the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee about his attempts to contact WikiLeaks, the website that released damaging emails about Trump’s 2016 Democratic election rival Hillary Clinton that US intelligence officials have concluded were stolen by Russian hackers.