WASHINGTON (CN) — Roger Stone, a longtime friend and ally of President Donald Trump, was sentenced Thursday to three years and four months in prison, but speculation that the president may hand the self-proclaimed “dirty trickster” a get-out-of-jail-free card will keep the case rooted in the national spotlight.
The sentence handed down just after noon by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson aligns with the terms made more lenient with input from Justice Department higher-ups. Though prosecutors had originally recommended that Stone serve seven to nine years in prison, President Donald Trump slammed that filing as a “miscarriage of justice,” and less than 24 hours later the U.S. Attorney's Office updated its suggestion to three to four years.
With a not-so-veiled rebuke of the president, Jackson on Thursday said “entirely inappropriate” comments from longtime allies of the defendant cannot influence the court.
Sending a clear message that echoed closing arguments delivered by the prosecution at trial, Jackson affirmed that, in the face of Stone's false testimony to Congress: “The truth still exists. The truth still matters.”
To turn a blind eye to Stone’s crimes, Jackson warned, would cripple the justice system: It would not be a victory for one party — rather, “everyone loses.”
“For that reason the dismay and disgust at the defendant’s belligerence should transcend party,” the judge said.
Jackson also broke her silence on the direct attacks Trump leveled against her over Twitter last week.
“Unsurprisingly I have a lot to say,” the judge said.
Stone’s supporters, the president among them, have been outspoken in claiming that the defendant's political activities triggered his investigation by the Justice Department. But Jackson rejected this argument. “It arose because Roger Stone characteristically injected himself smack into the middle of one of the most significant issues of the day,” she said.
Wearing a black pinstriped suit with a light blue shirt, Stone stood at the court lectern and did not react as Jackson read his sentence. Stone must pay a $20,000 fine and faces two years of probation after his release from prison. As they braced for the judgment, Stone's daughter put her arms around Stone's wife in the first row of the courtroom.
The newly assigned assistant U.S. attorney on the case, John Crabb, told the judge it was the recommendation of the Justice Department that she sentence Stone to "a substantial period of incarceration."
“This prosecution was, and this prosecution is, righteous,” Crabb assured her.
All four federal prosecutors who brought the case to trial withdrew from the legal proceedings Feb. 11 amid reports that the Justice Department planned to reverse their sentence recommendation filed a day earlier. The exits included one prosecutor stepping down from his special assignment in Washington and another resigning as an assistant U.S. attorney.
Strongly rebuking the Justice Department for the shakeup, Judge Jackson told Crabb that she worried that he knew less about the case on record than just about everyone else in the courtroom.
The prosecutor apologized to the judge for the confusion and explained that there was a “miscommunication” between the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia and Attorney General Bill Barr.
"There is nothing in bad faith about what was done with the original trial team here,” Crabb told the judge.