Roger Stone Asks DC Circuit to Delay Start of Prison Sentence Due to Covid-19

Roger Stone arrives at federal court in Washington on Feb. 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

WASHINGTON (CN) — Roger Stone wants the D.C. Circuit to delay his surrender to federal prison, citing coronavirus flare-ups in the federal facility where the longtime and now-convicted ally to President Donald Trump is set to serve out his sentence. 

“The Covid-19 pandemic continues to explode and, notwithstanding the current conditions reported at the institution to which Stone is scheduled to report, the dangers from Covid-19 in the prison system are largely unabated and, in fact, appear to be increasing,” attorneys Seth Ginsberg and David I. Schoen said in the emergency motion filed Monday evening. 

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson last month denied in part Stone’s request to reschedule his voluntary surrender date from June 30 to Sept. 3, after he claimed to be at serious risk should he be exposed to Covid-19 due to underlying medical conditions.

The judge instead gave Stone until July 14 — 75 days past his original date to report to the Bureau of Prisons — and ordered him to serve home confinement during the two-week extension. 

Calling federal prisons hotbeds for the deadly virus, Stone’s attorneys are now asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to stay the district court order and extend their client’s surrender date to Sept. 3, as previously requested. 

They argued to the appeals court that five staff and six inmates tested positive in recent days at the Federal Correctional Institution, Jesup, a medium-security prison in Georgia, where Stone is set to surrender. Only around 30 of 1,409 inmates at the institution have been tested as cases spike in the Sunbelt state, the attorneys claim.  

Stone’s attorneys argue Jackson minimized the risk to their client’s health by refusing to grant the requested extension. At the time of the order, there were no confirmed cases in FCI Jesup.

“This factual premise no longer applies,” the motion states.

Relying on a case in Georgia from last month, the defense team claim that FCI Jesup inmates and staff do not routinely wear masks, including when preparing food, and that sleeping arrangements in the facility make social distancing virtually impossible. 

The Justice Department did not oppose Stone’s motion to reschedule his surrender date, as the agency has adopted a policy during the Covid-19 pandemic of not opposing a defendant’s request to extend a surrender date for up to 60 days, unless a defendant poses an immediate public safety or flight risk.

“As explained to the district court, this motion is based on the exceptional circumstances arising from the serious and possibly deadly risk that Stone would face in the close confines of a BOP facility, based on his age and medical conditions,” Ginsberg and Schoen wrote. 

The serious medical condition Stone claims heightens his risk of contracting Covid-19 remains under seal. But his attorneys also repeatedly rely on the defendant’s age as well as notes from his physician.

“Dr. Woolf explains that the ‘lack of relevant data and guidance for patients suffering’ from Stone’s condition is ‘very concerning’ but that, based on the nature of the condition, it is reasonable to speculate that Stone is ‘at greater risk of infection and greater risk of complications from COVID-19,’” Ginsberg and Schoen wrote. 

Stone’s appeal of his sentence and conviction on seven criminal counts, including lying to Congress, obstruction of justice and witness tampering, is pending in the appeals court. His attorneys further argued Monday that communication with their client would be stymied if he surrenders to custody because attorney-client visits are not permitted at FCI Jesup due to the pandemic.

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