Federals: Roger Stone’s delay in sentencing follows coronavirus-era policy

However, Judge Amy Berman Jackson made it clear that she is not accepting Stone’s claim to the letter. After Stone’s initial motion to delay his sentence, Jackson ordered the US Attorney’s Office for Washington, DC, which processed the case, to submit his own presentation weighing in on the matter and also provide details. about recent coronavirus tests at FCI Jesup, the federal government prison in Georgia, where Stone is expected to be imprisoned.

In a subsequent order on Wednesday, Jackson also asked the government to show him the existing policies of the Department of Justice or US attorneys on how to handle defendants who request delays in their due dates. to the coronavirus.

And on Thursday, Jackson asked more, ordering Stone to provide details about what he told the Bureau of Prisons, which set its reporting date for June 30 after Jackson denied his motion for a new mid-trial. of April.

In its filing, the United States Attorney’s office indicated that Stone’s legal team had asked the Bureau of Prisons for the date of June 30 on April 17, citing Stone’s health and risk of coronavirus. BOP agreed.

“At no time since that original designation, did the United States Attorney’s Office play a role or attempt to influence whether BOP should revise the June 30 delivery date,” the government said in its filing Thursday by the night.

While prosecutors said the two-month delay was consistent with the Bureau of Prisons guide issued in March, they did not provide the judge with a copy of that policy.

When POLITICO asked the Bureau of Prisons in March whether concerns related to the virus had caused delays in defendants’ dates to begin their prison terms, a spokesperson replied: “People with questions about voluntary surrender should consult your attorneys and the US Marshals Service for instructions. “

Given the history of Stone’s case, Jackson appears to be deeply suspicious of both sides, demanding detailed justification and written support from the defense and prosecution for the kinds of claims that judges often accept based solely on the opinion of an attorney. .

A former prosecutor in Stone’s case, Aaron Zelinsky, added to the air of intrigue surrounding the matter when he told Congress this week that he was under repeated political pressure to give Stone a “break” during his February sentence for his conviction for serially lying to Congress and intimidating a witness to prevent a House investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Stone also raised suspicions about his situation by stating in one of his Instagram videos that his request to delay the report date of June 30 had been rejected by the U.S. attorney’s office, while in the court filing de Stone on Tuesday, his attorneys indicated that the U.S. prosecutor would not object to a two-month delay.

Attorney General William Barr has rejected the suggestion that Trump’s policy or favoritism played a role in his decision to nullify Zelinsky and other prosecutors to recommend a lesser sentence for Stone.

“I was the one who made the decision in that case because there was a dispute,” Barr told NPR on Thursday. “And generally what happens is that disputes, especially in high-profile cases, are brought before the attorney general. It’s not unusual for there to be a dispute in a high-profile case and to be resolved by the attorney general.”

But Zelinsky told Congress that the circumstances were virtually unprecedented. Four-line prosecutors handling the case relied on standard sentencing guidelines to recommend a Feb. 7 to 9-year sentence for Stone on Feb. 10, a sentence they said reflected his protracted obstruction of a crucial security investigation. national.

Trump tweeted just before 3 a.m. the next day that the sentence was unfair, and later that day, a senior Justice Department official submitted a revised sentencing recommendation that left the jail term to the judge, but qualified the original proposal as too harsh. All four prosecutors handling the case withdrew, and one resigned entirely from the Justice Department.

While there was broad agreement that the recommendation for a 67-year-old first-time offender was abrupt, Jackson acknowledged that prosecutors were largely subject to sentencing guidelines. She questioned the effort of Justice Department leaders to override line prosecutors and said they had largely calculated correctly, but ultimately opted for a shorter sentence that she said was more appropriate.

Trump has also indicated that he plans to forgive or commute Stone’s sentence, saying on Twitter that Stone can “sleep well.”

“Roger was the victim of a corrupt and illegal witch hunt, which will become the largest political crime in history,” Trump tweeted in response to a supporter call for “RT for a full pardon for Roger Stone.” “You can sleep well at night!”

While Stone has been instructed by prison officials to report next Tuesday, his attorneys are asking Jackson to hand him over until September 3 to do so.

The Bureau of Prisons website that tracks coronavirus outbreaks in the federal prison system does not report any past or present cases among inmates or Jesup staff. An official update published online Thursday said 20 prisoners there had been evaluated and found negative, while 10 tests are still pending, but prosecutors said in their filing that all tests administered were negative.

Nationwide, about 6,400 federal prisoners have been diagnosed with Covid-19 and 89 have died.