Roger Stone, a longtime showman, political strategist and friend of President Donald Trump’s, was sentenced Thursday to 40 months in prison.
Stone was convicted last fall of lying to Congress and threatening a witness regarding his efforts for Trump’s 2016 campaign.
The sentencing is the culmination of an intense week that provoked Twitter fury from Trump and a reckoning within the Justice Department, leading a prosecutor to declare Thursday: “This prosecution is righteous.” It’s also the near-end of a case that’s had several shocking moments that exposed Trump’s interest in WikiLeaks during the campaign.
Judge Amy Berman Jackson spent much of the hearing criticizing Stone’s actions and also defended the Justice Department prosecutors at the center of last week’s drama.
“At his core, Mr. Stone is an insecure person who craves and recklessly pursues attention,” she said, quoting a letter from trial witness Randy Credico, before issuing her sentence, which also includes 2 years of probation.
Without mentioning Trump’s name, Jackson said claims Stone was being singled out for his politics were wrong.
Stone was not prosecuted “for standing up for the President,” she said. “He was prosecuted for covering up for the President.”
Prosecutors had initially asked Stone to be sentenced to seven to nine years in prison, resting that recommendation on the severity of his crimes and behavior. Trump called that ask “very unfair,” however, in a late-night tweet. Attorney General William Barr overrode the recommendation the next day, saying seven years in prison would be too harsh a sentence.
Trump said Thursday his Stone “has a very good chance of exoneration.”
“Roger has a very good chance of exoneration in my opinion,” Trump said at an event in Las Vegas. Stone is asking for a new trial, and the President added he would let legal the process play out before making a decision on any clemency.
Although Jackson’s sentence was ultimately much lower than the original request, the judge said prosecutors did the right thing when they followed the guidelines in their original efforts.
None of the prosecutors who won the case at trial signed the revised sentencing memo, and two new DC US Attorney’s Office supervisors were assigned, exposing how politically charged the case has become inside the Justice Department.
New prosecutor John Crabb, Jr. said he wanted to apologize to the court for the confusion.
“This confusion was not caused by the original trial team,” he said. “The original trial team had authorization to submit” the original sentencing memo.
Crabb said he stands by the original sentencing memo, adding, “it was done in good faith.”
The Justice Department and US Attorney’s Office operate “without fear, favor or political influence,” Crabb added. “This prosecution is righteous.”
“The court should impose a substantial period of incarceration,” Crabb added.
Jackson also delivered a veiled swipe at the President during the hearing.
“For those of you who woke up last week” and decided sentencing guidelines are harsh, Jackson said, courts and defense lawyers have been acknowledging that for some time.