Judge Amy Berman Jackson sentenced Roger Stone, President Trump’s friend and former crony, to serve three years and four months in prison for impeding a congressional investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Prosecutors originally wanted a sentence of seven to nine years. However, the Justice Department backed away from that position. In court today, the prosecution reportedly asked for “a substantial period of incarceration,” but did not say how long that period should be.
It’s far from clear that Stone will actually serve anything approaching a 40 month sentence. He won’t serve any time right away because Judge Jackson wants first to consider his motion for a new trial. And even assuming she denies the motion (which seems likely), Stone might well receive a pardon or commutation. If President Trump waits until after the election to grant clemency, Stone may serve some time, but only half a year or so.
I regard obstructing an investigation by lying to Congress and tampering with witnesses as a very serious matter, even if the investigation being thereby obstructed is one that shouldn’t have been undertaken or has gone too far. However, I’ve been persuaded by Andy McCarthy and others that a sentence of seven to nine years would clearly have been excessive.
For me, the key fact is that the witness on the receiving end of Stone’s ostensible threat had a longstanding relationship with Stone, and said he did not feel threatened by him. Thus, it seems to me that a sentence in the range of 37 to 46 months — which I understand to be what the sentencing guidelines would have prescribed absent Stone’s threats — is appropriate.
Stone’s sentence falls slightly on the lower side of that range.
The judge reportedly made a lengthy statement before delivering the sentence. Here is part of what she said:
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.
Judge Jackson’s characterization of Stone’s behavior doesn’t seem unfair to me, and I agree with her conclusions.
The judge also stated: “The defendant isn’t public enemy No. 1 but he’s not a victim either.” I agree with this too.