If former Trump political advisor Roger Stone — convicted of one count of obstruction of an official proceeding, five counts of false statements, and one count of witness tampering in federal court — was hoping that the judicial conference call scheduled for this morning by U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson would mean a postponement of his sentencing or an announcement that his second request for a new trial had been granted, he was sorely disappointed today.
Despite the presidential tweets, despite the intervention of Attorney General William Barr, despite the resignation of the four Justice Department prosecutors originally handling the case, Judge Berman dedicated her call with defense attorneys and the newly-appointed Barr-assigned replacement prosecutors to reaffirming the fact that sentencing would proceed as planned on Thursday.
“I think that delaying this sentence would not be a prudent thing to do under all of the circumstances,” she said.
While the judge acknowledged the fact that Stone’s legal team had submitted a sealed second motion for a new trial, she told the participants on the conference call that she would not address its merits at this time.
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Whether Berman decides to abide by the original sentencing recommendations submitted by the resigning prosecutors that follow the law as written or to go with the revised guidelines substituted at the insistence of Attorney General Barr to keep president’s head from exploding won’t be known until Thursday’s hearing, but whatever penalty she decides to implement, it won’t go into effect until she rules on the appeal for a do-over in the trial.
The motion for a new trial reportedly is based on accusations of bias on the part of one of the jurors in the trial based on defense lawyers’ investigation of that juror’s social media activities, according to news reports.
The attempts to paint investigators, prosecutors, jurors, and judges as biased and unfair is a page straight out of the Donald Trump playbook as the “Cheeto cheater” has consistently tried to turn attention away from his own misdeeds and illegal executive orders towards those who are investigating his behavior and determining the constitutionality of his moves.
These types of accusations — coupled with the president’s attempts to interfere in the trial of his friend and advisor — have been condemned by legal professionals across the political spectrum as undermining the nation’s faith in the rule of law and signaling a downward spiral into the kind of banana republic authoritarian rule that this nation has blissfully avoided…until now.
Original reporting by Matt Naham at Law & Crime.