Biding His Time to Pardon, Roger Stone Appeals to DC Circuit

Roger Stone arrives at federal court in Washington last month for sentencing on his convictions for witness tampering and lying to Congress. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

WASHINGTON (CN) — Having slung mud unsuccessfully at both judge and jury, Roger Stone opened a new wave of attack at the D.C. Circuit to overturn his conviction on charges from special counsel Robert Mueller.

Stone’s notice of appeal Thursday marks the continuation of a monthslong effort by the self-proclaimed “dirty trickster” to buck a November verdict that found him guilty on seven counts of obstruction, lying to Congress and witness tampering.

The prosecution climaxed not with last year’s jury trial, however, but an internal scuffle at the Justice Department over the sentencing recommendation for the well-known political provocateur.

After President Donald Trump slammed the original prison recommendation of seven to nine years as a “miscarriage of justice,” the Justice Department lightened its proposal to just 15 to 21 months of incarceration for the “67-year-old first-time offender convicted of serious but nonviolent crimes.”

That recalibration prompted four career federal prosecutors to withdraw from the case, one quitting the Justice Department altogether. 

Stone’s defense team has steadfastly argued their client had no reason to lie to the House Intelligence Committee when it was investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. 

“The campaign was long since over and Mr. Trump was the president of the United States,” defense attorney Bruce Rogow had said in closing arguments last year. “There was no sensible reason at that point to lie to cover up.”

Three months later, in sentencing Stone to 40 months in prison, U.S District Judge Amy Berman Jackson balked at the “so what” defense that Stone’s attorneys had put forward.

“‘So what?’ Of all the circumstances in this case, that may be the most pernicious,” Jackson said. “The truth still exists. The truth still matters. Roger Stone’s insistence that it doesn’t, his belligerence, his pride in his own lies, are a threat to our most fundamental institutions, to the very foundation of our democracy.”

Trump publicly proclaimed hours after that hearing that Stone had a “very good chance of exoneration.” 

Praising the GOP consultant as a “smart guy” with a “fantastic family,” Trump said he had no plans to act on the “great powers bestowed on the president” and would instead see how the case plays out in court.

In addition to appealing his conviction and sentence of 40 months, Stone wants the D.C. Circuit to overturn Jackson’s rejection two weeks ago of his bid for a retrial.

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Briefing on Stone’s appeal is expected from both parties in the coming weeks.

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