Yesterday, Judge Amy Berman Jackson sentenced Roger Stone to 40 months in prison, a sentence he’s extremely unlikely to serve. I maintained that the sentence is just and I agreed, in general, with Judge Jackson’s comments about Stone.
However, Judge Jackson did not confine her sentencing speech to the defendant. She also waded into internal matters at the Department of Justice.
The judge seemed to criticize Attorney General Barr, saying his intervention to reduce the prosecutors’ sentencing recommendation was “unprecedented.” Does she know enough about the history of internal deliberations at the Justice Department about sentencing to make this claim?
More importantly, Judge Jackson herself rejected the sentence the prosecutors originally recommended. The sentence she meted out was less than half as long. By the judge’s own reckoning, the recommended sentence was too harsh. Thus, Barr’s intervention served the interests of justice.
Nonetheless, Judge Jackson pressed the DOJ lawyer who was present to explain why the Department backed away from its original recommendation. She even asked him whether he had written the softer sentencing recommendation that bore his signature. The lawyer said he couldn’t answer this question because doing so would expose internal deliberations.
Jackson also questioned why this particular lawyer, who didn’t prosecute the case, was in court at all. I think everyone understood why. In addition, Jackson made a point of noting that the initial sentencing recommendation — the one that called for a sentence twice as long as the one she imposed — was consistent with the sentencing guidelines.
I have no problem with Jackson getting it on the record that the original prosecutors’ sentencing recommendation followed the guidelines. Nor is there anything wrong with Jackson being favorably disposed to the prosecutors who were in her courtroom throughout the Stone trial.
But what non-partisan purpose is served by dumping on the new DOJ lawyer? What non-partisan purpose is served by asking him questions about internal deliberations at the DOJ — deliberations that led to the pulling of a sentencing recommendation the judge obviously thought was too harsh? What non-partisan purpose is served by trying to make the DOJ look bad?
None that I can think of. It seems to me that Judge Jackson’s purpose was to bash William Barr and President Trump, and to reinforce anti-Trump talking points.
I find this ironic in view of Judge Jackson’s efforts to sell her sentence as something members of both political parties should embrace. She stated:
The truth still exists, the truth still matters. Roger Stone’s insistence that it doesn’t, his belligerence, his pride in his own lies are a threat to our most fundamental institutions, to the foundations of our democracies. If it goes unpunished it will not be a victory for one political party; everyone loses.
The dismay and disgust at the defendant’s belligerence should transcend party.
Fine. I agree.
But if you want to “transcend party” don’t accompany this high-minded rhetoric with comments seemingly designed to score political points against the President and against the Attorney General, whose only “offense” was pulling an overly harsh sentencing recommendation.