WASHINGTON — Roger Stone, a longtime friend and adviser of President Donald Trump, was sentenced Thursday to more than three years in prison in a politically fraught case that put the president at odds with his attorney general, stirred widespread consternation in the Justice Department and provoked the judge in the case to denounce pressure on the justice system.
In announcing the 40-month sentence, Judge Amy Berman Jackson of U.S. District Court in Washington suggested that attacks on federal judges, prosecutors and juries should be a wake-up call that such behavior should not be normal for political leaders. She never mentioned Trump by name.
“The dismay and the disgust at the attempts by others to defend his actions as just business as usual in our polarized climate should transcend party,” the judge said of Stone. “The dismay and disgust at any attempt to interfere with the efforts of prosecutors and members of the judiciary to fulfill their duty should transcend party.”
The prosecution was thrown into disarray last week when Attorney General William Barr overruled a sentencing recommendation by four career prosecutors, who then quit the case in protest. Barr said he decided on his own that the prosecutors’ request for a prison term of seven to nine years was too harsh. But his move coincided with Trump’s public complaints about the prosecutors’ recommendation and elicited widespread criticism that he had bent to the president’s will.
The attorney general, facing a backlash within the department, asked Trump in a nationally televised interview to cease his running commentary about the department’s criminal cases.
Yet less than three hours after Stone was sentenced, the president declared he should be “exonerated,” echoing the defense team’s arguments in detail. Speaking in Las Vegas, he said Stone was the victim of “a bad jury” led by an anti-Trump activist And he suggested he would use his clemency power to spare Stone if Jackson did not agree to a new trial sought by defense lawyers.
A jury in November convicted Stone of seven felony charges, including lying under oath to a congressional committee and threatening a witness whose testimony would have exposed those lies. In biting tones, Jackson dismissed any notion that the case lacked merit.