In January 2019, a small army of heavily armed FBI agents conducted a predawn arrest of then 66-year-old Roger Stone on charges of witness tampering, obstruction of justice, and making false statements regarding the publication of hacked DNC emails. These charges pertained to nonviolent crimes, and Stone had no prior criminal record or reputation for either lawlessness or violence.
But instead of allowing Stone to self-surrender for booking and processing during normal business hours, the FBI came to his home in the dead of night with guns drawn to take him into custody and parade him before the CNN news cameras that had mysteriously appeared to record the event.
The charges against Stone and his prosecution were the work of Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his fanatical band of Democrat partisans. They wildly overcharged Stone with seven felony counts of obstructing the congressional investigation of Russian collusion.
Stone was convicted. But it is now reported that one Tomeka Hart, the jury foreperson, is a Democrat party activist who ran for Congress in 2012 and has participated in anti-Trump rallies and protests. And, despite the fact in jury voir dire she testified under oath that she had only a slight passing knowledge of Stone, it has now been revealed that, on social media prior to trial, she mocked Stone’s arrest and labeled Trump and his supporters as racists. When the jury convicted Stone, Hart posted emojis of hearts and fist pumps.
The same reports indicate that the trial judge denied a defense request to strike a potential juror who was an Obama-era press officer who admitted to holding anti-Trump views and that another juror donated to presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke and other progressive causes.
The question of whether or not Stone received a fair trial before an unbiased jury will have to be resolved another time. But the unusual circumstances of Stone’s arrest and trial help justify President Trump’s critical tweets about the questionable conduct of Stone’s case.
In any event, Stone is scheduled to be sentenced on February 20, 2020.
Long ago federal judges were free to impose whatever sentence they deemed appropriate within the statutory maximum. This resulted in different judges imposing wildly disparate sentences for similar conduct by similar defendants.
To reduce such disparities, federal sentencing guidelines have been adopted whereby a matrix of aggravating and mitigating circumstances pertaining to the type of crime, the defendant’s prior criminal history, and similar factors are assigned numerical values. The resulting calculations are then used to produce an overall guidelines “score” and recommended sentence range.
I will spare you the mindnumbing details of how these guideline calculations work. Suffice it to say that whatever score results, the recommended sentence is not binding on the judge. It is merely a recommendation from which the sentencing judge may deviate.
Moreover, in any given case, there are usually three separate sentencing memoranda filed with the court. The prosecution, the defense, and U.S. Probation and Parole each file a sentencing memorandum setting forth their individual guideline calculations and recommended sentences. It is not unusual for these memoranda to reach different conclusions regarding the applicable factors, the guideline score, and the sentence to be imposed.
Stone was prosecuted by members of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office. Though that office no longer exists, earlier this week Team Mueller holdovers Aaron Zelinsky and Adam Jed submitted to the court a sentencing memorandum recommending that Stone be imprisoned for a period of 87 to 108 months. They apparently filed this memorandum without Department of Justice authorization. A Justice Department official stated that “The Department was shocked to see the sentencing recommendation in the filing in the Stone case last night. The sentencing recommendation was not what had been briefed to the Department.”
Then the District of Columbia U.S. Attorney’s Office filed a supplemental sentencing memorandum stating that the previous submission “does not accurately reflect the Department of Justice’s position on what would be a reasonable sentence in this matter. While it remains the position of the United States that a sentence of incarceration is warranted here, the government respectfully submits that the range of 87 to 108 months presented as the applicable advisory Guidelines range would not be appropriate or serve the interests of justice.” (Emphasis added.)
The supplemental memorandum spells out why, under the guidelines, the previous recommendation disproportionately escalated Stone’s “sentencing exposure to an offense level … which typically applies in cases involving violent offenses such as armed robbery, not obstruction cases.”
The supplemental memorandum states that the “most serious enhancement in this case … for ‘threatening to cause physical injury’ — has been disputed” by the purported victim of that threat. This is a reference to radio host Randy Credico.
According to the prosecution, Stone had approached Credico to set up a means of communicating with Julian Assange of Wikileaks regarding the hacked DNC emails. When Credico announced that he planned to cooperate with prosecutors, Stone told him to “prepare to die” and threatened to kidnap (!) his dog.
In the disputed sentencing memorandum, Zelensky and Jed contended in apparent seriousness that these bombastic and surreal remarks by Stone, a well-known gadfly given to hyperbole, necessitated the drastic sentencing enhancement because they constituted a threat to cause Credico physical injury. This despite the fact that Credico had testified that he had “never in any way felt that Stone himself posed a direct physical threat to me.”
Noting that the recommended sentence greatly exceeded sentences imposed in similar obstruction cases, the supplemental memorandum asks the court to consider Stone’s “advanced age, health, personal circumstances, and lack of criminal history in fashioning an appropriate sentence. As noted above, a sentence of 87 to 108 months more typically has been imposed for defendants who have higher criminal history categories or who obstructed justice as part of a violent criminal organization.”
It concludes by stating that Stone “committed serious offenses and deserves a sentence of incarceration” but that a sentence of 87 to 108 months imprisonment “could be considered excessive and unwarranted under the circumstances. Ultimately, the government defers to the Court as to what specific sentence is appropriate under the facts and circumstances in this case.” (Emphasis added.)
This understated and wholly reasonable analysis neither whitewashes Stone’s behavior nor opposes his imprisonment. To the contrary, it explicitly recommends incarceration and leaves the length of the sentence up to the judge.
Subsequently, President Trump tweeted the following:
All starting to unravel with the ridiculous 9 year sentence recommendation! https://t.co/6baxv3Lvuk
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 12, 2020
In similar tweets, Trump has made clear his opinion that Stone has been treated unfairly.
So what was the response of the four-man Stone prosecution team? Did they challenge the U.S. attorney’s supplemental memorandum? Did they stand their ground and stay on the case?
No, they didn’t. Instead, they quit in a snit and fled the field of battle.
Zelinsky and Jed, the Muellerites who had submitted the surprise sentencing memorandum, withdrew from the case and resigned from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, as did prosecutor Jonathan Kravis. Michael Marando, the fourth prosecutor, withdrew from the case but did not resign.
So, what are we to make of this performance? Are we to believe that these prosecutors had no honorable alternative but to run for the exit?
One need only to look at Team Mueller’s record to recognize that the actions of these four drama queens constitute nothing more than political performance art designed to manufacture yet one more faux “crisis” to be exploited by the Democrats and their mainstream media adjunct to the detriment of the president.
Recently Andrew Weissmann, formerly Mueller’s so-called pit bull, basically admitted on MSNBC that Team Mueller’s investigation was in essence an elaborate and carefully laid perjury trap calculated to snare the president. Fortunately, thanks to the outstanding legal representation afforded by the legendary John Dowd, the president neither testified before the grand jury nor submitted to an interview by Team Mueller.
But the fact remains that Team Mueller existed — in Weissmann’s words — to “get rid of” Donald Trump. Given that goal, the filing of this surprise and overblown sentencing memorandum by the Team Mueller holdovers and their prompt, unnecessary, and dramatic resignations should be understood as a last, desperate effort by the rear guard of the defunct Special Counsel’s Office to bring the president, Attorney General William Barr, and the Justice Department into disrepute.
Put another way, this whole stunt is nothing more than a choreographed two-act political melodrama in which the Team Mueller holdovers filed their overhyped, unauthorized sentencing memorandum and then followed up with a grand jeté exit stage left to a shower of bouquets and bravos from an adoring Democrat and mainstream media audience.
Attorney General William Barr has been summoned to testify before Congress about these matters, and, unsurprisingly, there have even been calls for his impeachment. The apparent premise for Barr’s removal is that the Justice Department, acting under his direction, may not make a sentencing recommendation that contradicts to any degree that of the Team Mueller holdovers even though the entirely reasonable contradictory memorandum recommends incarceration and explicitly leaves the sentence entirely up to the judge. And, as for Trump, even though he is the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, apparently he isn’t allowed to criticize either the fishy-smelling Stone prosecution or the work of the sacrosanct Team Mueller.
All of this is just the kind of fake pretextual material that the deranged Democrats and their mainstream media amen corner use to gin up yet another feverish round of impeachment.
But, if that happens, then in a twist of supreme irony, Team Mueller — which once fancied itself Trump’s fatal nemesis — will have quite unwittingly played into the president’s hands by affording him yet another opportunity to demonstrate the congressional Democrats’ impotence, insanity, and lack of serious purpose even as his approval ratings and fundraising rise.
Another impeachment over this claptrap? We should be so lucky. If that happens, then we should all join together in thanking Team Mueller for its last-gasp self-inflicted wound and gift to America.
George Parry is a former federal and state prosecutor. He is a regular contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer and blogs at knowledgeisgood.net. He may be reached by email at email@example.com.