Jury selection began Monday in the case of US v. Roger Stone.
Opening statements could begin on Wednesday, and the trial should last two to three weeks. Prosecutors said they expect to rest their case by next Tuesday or Wednesday.
Stone pleaded not guilty to charges of obstructing justice, witness tampering and lying to the U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee.
Stone arrived at the DC federal courthouse wearing a gray suit and sunglasses. He entered the courtroom with his wife, Nydia.
Jury selection got off to a seemingly unfortunate start for Stone, with Judge Amy Berman Jackson denying most of the requests made by Stone’s lawyers to exclude potential jurors they think might be biased against Stone.
Out of the entire jury pool of 80 possible jurors [in the DC area] reportedly not one is a registered Republican and almost everyone is Democrat. This is not surprising given the registered voter statistics in D.C.: 76% Democrats, 6% Republicans, 16% Independent, and 1% Other.
Stone is a well known Republican and longtime associate of Donald Trump. Some jurors reportedly said they despised Trump on their jury questionnaires.
Jackson did not feel this was sufficient cause to remove them from serving on the jury. One juror reportedly was a friend of one of the prosecutors who worked toward indicting Stone. This too did not seem to worry Jackson, a staunch Democrat, and an Obama appointee to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
Shortly after the potential jurors were sworn in, Stone’s defense attorney Robert Buschel told Judge Jackson, “Mr. Stone is not feeling well.”
After hearing from the first potential juror, Stone was allowed to leave the courtroom to use the restroom. He was looking uneasy. He came back into the courtroom patting his forehead with a napkin.
When he asked to leave the court for the restroom a second time, the judge said they could postpone the proceedings, since he had a right to be in court and face his potential jurors.
“I’m not going to order him to waive his constitutional rights, but we cannot spend a whole day doing what we should be able to do in a short period of time,” Jackson said. “So, let him go, let him come back, and then we’re going to bring in the next juror.”
At one point, the judge offered Stone anti-diarrheal medication.
“I have Imodium in my chambers,” she said.
Later in the morning, the judge said to Stone’s lawyer, “Your client seems to have his eyes closed and his head in his hands. And I just want to make sure we should keep going.”
After a discussion with his client, Buschel asked for an early lunch break.
“I mean, I’m trying to jam along with the court, and I think we’re doing good,” he said.
“I understand. I think everybody is operating in good faith here,” the judge said. “Over the hour, you have the opportunity to consult with – I believe there’s a medical professional in his family and the nurse in this building.”
Prosecutor Jonathan Kravis told the judge, “The government’s position here is the defendant, obviously, has a constitutional right to be present for the proceedings. He can waive that right. But, if that’s what he chooses to do, we want to make sure the waiver is knowing and voluntary.”
During the lunch break, Stone went to the health unit on the first floor, accompanied by his wife.
When court resumed, Stone told Jackson he was suffering from food poisoning and asked to be excused.
His lawyers said they would continue with jury selection without their client.
“I want to apologize to the court. I don’t want to waste the court’s time,” Stone told Jackson, as he waived his right to participate in the jury selection process. “I hope to be better tomorrow.”
“I will excuse you. I hope you get rest,” Jackson told him.
Jury selection continued without Stone.
In lieu of being permitted to turn himself in, Stone was arrested last January in a massive predawn raid by armed federal agents at his home in Fort Lauderdale Florida, which was caught on camera by CNN.
Prosecutors’ allegations include that Stone attempted to learn about stolen emails that, once public, could hurt Trump’s opponent Hillary Clinton in 2016. Stone allegedly communicated with the Trump campaign about his and his associates’ attempts to reach WikiLeaks, which was publishing damaging and embarrassing emails of prominent Democrats connected to Clinton.
It is not known how the emails reached WikiLeaks, although the Democrats’ narrative is that it was definitely stolen by the Russians.
Prosecutors say Stone falsely denied to the House Committee that he had discussions with the Trump campaign and others about trying to reach WikiLeaks.