WASHINGTON – A federal judge on Friday denied a request by President Trump’s friend, Roger J. Stone Jr., for a two-month delay before he began serving his prison sentence, despite the fact that his motion was uncontested by from the Department of Justice.
Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia gave Mr. Stone an additional two weeks before he is due to appear in federal prison in Jesup, Georgia, but in the meantime ordered that he be placed. in home confinement.
The judge’s order seemed to reflect some impatience as to why Mr. Stone, a former campaign adviser to Mr. Trump, had not yet been jailed. In a trial that Judge Jackson supervised, a jury convicted him in November of seven serious crimes, including lying to federal investigators, manipulating a witness, and preventing an investigation by Congress. The judge sentenced him in February to 40 months in prison.
The Prison Office initially ordered Mr. Stone, 67, to appear in prison in April, then postponed the date until June 30 after the judge, in an order denying him a new trial, said that His imprisonment should begin before April 30. .
Then this month, citing the pandemic, Mr. Stone asked Judge Jackson to delay his imprisonment until September 1. He noted his age and health problems, which were not publicly disclosed.
In a nod to intense criticism of the Justice Department’s handling of the case, prosecutors told Judge Jackson that they did not oppose the delay, but simply because of the department’s guidelines for defendants who are about to begin their prison terms and are not at risk of flight. or threatens public safety.
“There is no case in which this office has opposed a request to extend a self-surrender date during the pandemic,” prosecutors in Washington said this week in a filing with the judge. The department’s stance was drafted “to comply with our policy and practice, and for no other reason,” its attorneys said.
That seemed to conflict with a statement from Mr. Stone’s attorneys. Their presentation to the judge said that government attorneys had told them this month that the Bureau of Prisons “no longer extended Covid-19-based delivery dates and that, therefore, BOP would not change Stone’s delivery date. on June 30, 2020. “
After more discussions, Mr. Stone’s attorneys said, they were informed that the department would not oppose their request for delay.
The Department of Justice’s handling of Mr. Stone’s case has been deeply strained. He was one of a series of former Trump aides who were indicted as a result of the investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
After Attorney General William P. Barr reversed his recommendation for sentencing for a stiff prison term, four career prosecutors dropped the case and one of them left the department entirely. This week, in a statement to the House Judiciary Committee during a supervisory hearing, one of those prosecutors said his superiors cited “strong pressure from higher levels of the Justice Department for Stone to leave a break.”
“What I heard repeatedly was that Roger Stone was being treated differently than any other defendant because of his relationship with the President,” said prosecutor Aaron SJ Zelinsky. Mr. Zelinsky has now left his assignment at the United States Attorney’s Office in Washington, but remains a department attorney in Baltimore.
Mr. Barr has rejected Mr. Zelinsky’s account as rumors.
The coronavirus has spread through federal prisons. So far, 89 inmates and a staff member have died of the disease, according to statistics from the Bureau of Prisons.
In an Instagram post this month, Stone complained that he had been ordered to serve his sentence in a prison that had a “substantial” problem with the virus, while other high-profile prisoners were granted pardons.
But Judge Jackson wrote that Mr. Stone’s prison was not “affected” yet. He said two weeks of home confinement for Mr. Stone would help protect other inmates “who share the accused’s anxiety about the possible introduction and spread of the virus.”