Justice Department lowers Roger Stone sentencing request; prosecutors quit case

Roger Stone, a former advisor to President Donald Trump, arrives with his wife Nydia for his trial at the E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse in Washington, D.C., on November 7. File Photo by Tasos Katopodis/UPI

Feb. 12 (UPI) — Hours after the Department of Justice announced plans to lower a sentencing request for former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone on Tuesday, four prosecutors quit the case.

Prosecutors on Monday asked a federal judge to sentence Stone, 67, to up to nine years in prison for obstructing a congressional investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

President Donald Trump voiced his displeasure over the request Tuesday, calling it “disgraceful” in one early-morning tweet, and “horrible and very unfair” and a “miscarriage of justice” in another tweet.

Shortly after the tweets, a senior Justice Department official told CBS News the department was “shocked” by the length of the sentencing recommendation.

“This is not what was briefed to the department,” the official said. “The department believes the recommendation is extreme and excessive and is grossly disproportionate to Stone’s offenses.”

Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec denied any communication between the White House and the department about the sentencing recommendation, saying department leadership decided to lower the prison term recommendation after the court filing became available Monday evening.

Hours after the Justice Department’s announcement to lower the recommendation, four of the federal prosecutors working on the case, Adam Jed, Jonathan Kravis, Michael Marando and Aaron S.J. Zelinsky, quit. Two of them — Kravis and Zelinsky — resigned entirely as employees of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C.

Late Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused Trump of having engaged in political interference in the sentencing of Stone.

“It is outrageous that DOJ has deeply damaged the rule of law by withdrawing its recommendation,” she said in a statement. “Stepping down of prosecutors should be commended and actions of DOJ should be investigated.”

Federal prosecutors told a U.S. district court judge in a sentencing memorandum that Stone should be sentenced to seven years to nine years as a “general deterrence” due to the seriousness of his offenses and that he knew exactly what he was doing when he committed them.

“Roger Stone obstructed Congress’ investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, lied under oath and tampered with a witness,” the prosecution wrote in the filing. “And when his crimes were revealed by the indictment in this case, he displayed contempt for this court and the rule of law. For that, he should be punished in accord with the advisory guidelines.”

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The memorandum detailed how Stone made “repeated efforts” to obtain information from WikiLeaks, which had published a trove of emails stolen from Trump’s then-political rival, Hillary Clinton. Stone then told the Congressional committee investigating Russian interference in the election five lies designed to conceal his communications with the Trump campaign about the controversial website.

They also said he tampered with a witness, Randy Credico, for months through “badgering and threatening Credico’s reputation, friend, life and dog” to convince him to lie to Congress to prevent it from learning of his communications with WikiLeaks.

Following Stone’s indictment, the court entered an order prohibiting Stone from making comments about the case, which he ignored.

Three days after the order was issued, Stone posted an image to Instagram of the presiding judge with crosshairs next to her head with a comment that suggested he was being set up. He then lied to the court about who published the image.

The filing states Stone should be sentenced for up to nine years as his actions deserve adequate punishment and to deter potential future crimes.

“Stone’s criminal conduct was not an act of desperation,” the prosecutors said. “He is a man of substantial means, and he has enjoyed a modicum of fame from his years of being a political advisor and confidant to powerful politicians, and from being an author and host of his own political radio show. Rather, his conduct was undertaken purposefully, by someone who knew exactly what he was doing.”

Stone is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 20 after it was delayed late last year for his lawyers to arrange his financial situation.

In Stone’s sentencing memorandum, his lawyers said he should receive no more than 15 months in prison.

Stone was found guilty in November on seven criminal counts, making him the sixth Trump staffer to be convicted on charges related to former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Trump, speaking to reporters in the Oval Office on Tuesday afternoon, blamed the original sentencing proposal of up to nine years on the federal prosecutors who worked on the Mueller probe.

“They ought to be ashamed of themselves,” he said. “I think it’s been disgraceful.”

He declined to comment on whether he’s considering commuting Stone’s sentence.

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