WASHINGTON (CN) — In her first brush with the Roger Stone case since uproar over prison-time recommendations shook up the Justice Department, a federal judge said Tuesday she will not derail plans to sentence the longtime Trump adviser.
“I think that delaying this sentence would not be a prudent thing to do under all the circumstances,” said U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson.
The judge’s input has been hotly anticipated since White House attention to Stone’s case last week set off calls for investigation of political interference in a criminal prosecution.
In their first brief on the issue, dated Feb. 10, prosecutors sought a sentence of between seven and nine years for Stone after a jury found him guilty last year of lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstruction.
When that recommendation triggered a presidential tweetstorm, however, the Justice Department showed a change of heart in a Feb. 11 supplemental briefing that said the 67-year-old Stone’s lack of criminal history and age made a sentence of three to four years more appropriate.
President Donald Trump has denied ordering the move, but all four career prosecutors who brought Stone’s case to trial withdrew from the case in anticipation of the second filing, and one resigned from the Justice Department all together.
Jackson called into the Washington courtroom from chambers for this morning’s abruptly scheduled teleconference where new counsel for the government said Stone’s sentencing should proceed Thursday as planned.
For defense attorney Robert Buschel, however, the priority belongs to Stone’s bid for a new trial.
“We believe that this issue goes to the heart of this case,” Buschel said.
Jackson meanwhile questioned why the defense team did not seek a delay when filing the request, telling the attorney both sides will have “ample time” to address whatever issues necessary relating to the request after sentencing.
“Again, I just don’t see any case law that I would have to proceed by resolving the motion first,” Jackson said.
A judge known to be fair and exacting when presiding over criminal trials arising from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, Jackson made clear from the outset of Tuesday’s hearing she would not discuss the merits of the case or the sentencing.
“I am willing to make sure that there are no consequences that flow from the announcement of what the sentencing will be at the sentencing hearing,” Jackson said.
The judge took up Stone’s second request for new trial last week after rejecting an initial appeal claiming she blocked his defense team from striking an allegedly biased juror from the panel at his criminal trial.
Trump has been tweeting angrily since last week about the judge, the four prosecutors now off the case and the jury foreperson. Renewing that effort in the hours before Tuesday’s hearing, the president called the Mueller investigation that led to Stone’s indictment was “badly tainted” and called for the case to be thrown out.
“These were Mueller prosecutors, and the whole Mueller investigation was illegally set up based on a phony and now fully discredited Fake Dossier, lying and forging documents to the FISA Court, and many other things,” Trump tweeted Tuesday morning.
Less than a half hour before Jackson’s scheduled hearing, the president fired off another round of tweets quoting a “Fox and Friends” guest saying that it is “pretty obvious” that Stone should be allowed a new trial.
A federal jury convicted Stone in November on seven criminal counts punishable by up to 50 years incarceration.