A federal judge on Thursday sentenced Roger Stone, a longtime friend and political adviser to President Trump, to three years and four months in prison for impeding a congressional investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
The sentence handed down by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson provided vindication for Attorney General William Barr, who overruled federal prosecutors’ recommendation for a seven-to-nine year sentence for the Republican operative.
Judge Jackson said the original sentence sought by prosecutors was excessive, although she rejected the request for probation by Stone’s defense team.
Stone, who was also fined $20,000 and given travel restrictions, will not be sent to prison immediately. Judge Jackson agreed to postpone his incarceration until she has had a chance to consider his request for a new trial.
The judge delivered a scathing rebuke to Stone, who was convicted in November on seven counts of lying to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering.
A federal jury found him guilty of impeding a 2017 congressional investigation by lying about his efforts to connect to WikiLeaks, an anti-secrecy group that released emails stolen by Russian hackers from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
“This effort to obstruct the investigation was deliberate, planned, not one isolated incident, and conducted over a period of time,” Judge Jackson told a Washington courtroom.
She scolded Stone for his actions while his criminal case unfolded, including a raucous press conference after his arraignment and an apparent threat against her on social media.
“Stone’s conduct displayed flagrant disrespect for the institutions of government, including Congress and this court,” she said.
Still, Stone’s case is far from over as Judge Jackson considers his request for a new trial. His motion was filed last week after revelations surfaced about the possible political bias of one of the jurors in his case.
A review of jury foreperson Tomeka Hart’s social media posts uncovered tweets mocking Stone’s arrest before she was seated on the jury. She also frequently criticizes Mr. Trump on social media, calling the president and his supporters racist.
Sentencing debates are typically mundane, but the spat over Stone’s punishment touched off a political firestorm in Washington. Mr. Barr’s intervention in the case came hours after Mr. Trump blasted the prosecutors on Twitter.
Democrats have accused the president of trying to rig the justice system for his friends and have demanded Mr. Barr’s resignation.
Prosecutor John Crabb Jr. apologized to the court for the chaos that stemmed from the sentencing debate. He blamed the confusion on a “miscommunication” between Mr. Barr and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington but declined to say more.
“The original sentencing memorandum was filed in good faith,” Mr. Crabb told the court. “There was nothing in bad faith done by the original trial team here.”
Defense attorney Seth Ginsburg pleaded with the court not to send Stone to prison. He asked Judge Jackson to consider Stone’s charity work as well as the impact that prison will have on Stone’s family.
“The process to some extent has already been the punishment,” he said, highlighting the stress and cost of Stone’s legal battle.
Stone himself did not address the court. He left the courthouse without commenting while a crowd of supporters and detractors tried to drown each other out.
Michael Caputo, an ardent Stone supporter and former Trump campaign official, blasted Judge Jackson’s sentence
“This is a travesty and miscarriage of justice,” he told The Washington Times. “This is the final gasp of the bogus Russia investigation and gives the president everything he needs to pardon Roger Stone.”
Mr. Trump said Thursday he won’t pardon Stone, at least not yet.
“I’m not going to do anything in terms of the great powers bestowed on the president of the United States,” Mr. Trump said at an event in Las Vegas. “I want the process to play out. I’d love to see Roger exonerated. I personally think he was treated very unfairly.
Democrats publicly warned the president against a pardon.
“His sentence is justified. It should go without saying, but to pardon Stone when his crimes were committed to protect Trump would be a breathtaking act of corruption,” tweeted House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff, a California Democrat who spearheaded the impeachment of Mr. Trump.
Several other Trump associates have been convicted or pleaded guilty to crimes uncovered in the course of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, though none was convicted of conspiring with Russia.
The others include former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, Trump fixer Michael Cohen and campaign adviser George Papadopoulos.
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