Roger Stone was sentenced on Feb. 20 to 40 months in prison for lying to Congress and witness tampering. One could be forgiven for laughing at the notion that lying to Congress is considered a crime, of course, and it is certainly a charge brought arbitrarily against those who are guilty of it. Stone’s greatest transgression, it seems, is being an associate and supporter of President Donald Trump. The sentence itself is noteworthy and will undoubtedly bring visceral reactions from both sides of the political divide.
For the president’s detractors, 40 months will likely be considered far too lenient. The very fact that it is exactly in line with the revised Department of Justice recommendation – overruling the originally proposed seven to nine years – will almost certainly invite howls of outrage from Democrats, who will claim the DOJ rigged the sentencing out of deference to the president himself.
The final say, though, rested with Judge Amy Berman Jackson. A judge does not have to follow the Justice Department’s recommendation. Jackson voiced her clear dislike of Stone before sentencing. Berating the defendant at some length, she said: “The dismay and disgust at the defendant’s belligerence should transcend party,” according to one media report.
A Sentence to Disappoint Both Sides
For the president’s supporters, Stone’s penalty is yet another case of Trump loyalists being persecuted as others who worked to bring down the president escape justice, having committed the same or, in some cases, even more serious crimes, such as misleading a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
The saga is not quite over, though. Stone’s attorneys have requested a new trial after the discovery that the foreperson of Stone’s jury, Tomeka Hart, is a Democratic operative who loathes the president and those connected to him.
Many observers believe the president is almost certainly considering a pardon or commutation for Stone, although Trump himself has neither confirmed nor denied that possibility. In response to the original sentencing memo, Trump voiced his displeasure on Twitter, describing as extreme the prospect that Stone could get up to nine years. The just over three years that Stone faces, then, could have been Judge Jackson’s way of depriving the president of a legitimate excuse for handing down a pardon.
Read more from Graham J. Noble.