Roger Stone is scheduled to go on trial in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on November 5th.
As previously reported, Stone is facing the following charges:
– Count 1: Obstruction of Proceeding
– Count 2-6: False Statements
– Count 7: Witness Tampering
Stone’s case is a classic example of prosecutors bundling together as many charges as possible in order to “encourage” the defendant to take a plea deal rather than go to trial (That’s one of the primary reasons why 97% of federal criminal cases end up being resolved via plea deals).
In Stone’s case, he should be facing one count of lying to Congress – a crime that, if he were convicted, could result in him being fined up to $100,000 and spending up to 5-years in federal prison.
If that were the case, he would undoubtedly go to trial because even if he were found guilty, his maximum sentence would be 5-years.
But, instead, Stone is facing 50-years in prison.
Whether he will actually go to trial – which he has vowed to do – remains to be seen.
But in the meantime, the presiding judge in his case, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, has already begun to issue rulings on a variety of pre-trial motions.
New Ruling Gives Stone Access to More Documents
In a ruling that was issued earlier this week, Judge Jackson ordered the government to allow Stone more access to the unredacted portions of Robert Mueller’s 448-page “Special Counsel’s Report”.
But she also denied him access to other unredacted sections of the Mueller report – which, based on her own personal review, she said, “revealed that the material defendant hoped to find under the redactions was not there.”
Stone had argued that he needs the full Mueller report in order to show that he was singled out for prosecution because of his political views and affiliations.
But Jackson wrote that “Stone puts forth absolutely no evidence that his relationship to the campaign or the candidate motivated the Special Counsel’s decision to investigate and prosecute him.”
Judge Rejects Motion to Dismiss
Judge Jackson also rejected Stone’s motion to dismiss the pending indictment against him for a variety of reasons – including the fact that Stone’s alleged lying to a Congressional Committee had never been referred to the Department of Justice for prosecution (Stone was the last person to be indicted by Mueller before the investigation was closed down).
In doing so, she said, “There is no precedent that would authorize the dismissal of an indictment based on pure conjecture, nor has the defendant pointed to any authority that holds that an alleged violation of internal House committee rules could invalidate an indictment returned by a grand jury”.
Judge Jackson also blamed Stone for bringing attention to himself by publicly releasing his remarks before the Congressional hearing – “and by holding a press conference – while still on Capitol Hill – immediately afterwards”.
Apparently, Judge Jackson is not a big fan of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. You remember that amendment, right – it’s the one that talks about freedom of speech.
The “Trial Penalty”
The term “trial penalty” refers to the substantial difference between the sentence offered as part of a plea deal prior to trial versus the sentence that a defendant receives after trial.
Although judges and prosecutors often deny that there is any such “trial penalty”, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) believes it is real – and that it is destroying the right to a fair trial in the U.S.
As stated on the NACDL website, “This penalty is now so severe and pervasive that it has virtually eliminated the constitutional right to a trial. To avoid the penalty, accused persons must surrender many other fundamental rights which are essential to a fair justice system”.
Big Decisions Ahead for Stone
Roger Stone has about three months to decide whether he’ll take whatever plea deal has been offered by the prosecution or go to trial.
And while there has been no public word as to what type of deal he may have been offered, it would invariably include some amount of time in federal prison.
The deal would likely require him to plead guilty to one charge of perjury – and perhaps to one count of witness tampering. And it would likely end up with him serving something like 3-5 years in prison.
The alternative would be to go forward with the trial – and risk the possibility of getting what would amount to a death sentence.
And given that his trial is going to be held in Washington, DC, there is an above-average chance that his jury will have more Democrats than Republicans on it.
So many factors to consider…
Author’s Note: I mentioned in an earlier post that CNN just happened to be on the scene when the FBI conducted a pre-dawn raid on Stone’s home to arrest him back in January.
Now comes word that the FBI refused to respond to a FOIA request for any interactions it had with CNN regarding that raid – and that when he appeared before Congress a couple of weeks ago, Robert Mueller refused to respond to a direct question asking him whether any member of his team leaked word of the raid to CNN.
Nothing to see here, folks…just your government at work…