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November 15, 2019

You be the federal judge: what sentence for Roger Stone after his conviction on all seven counts including obstruction, witness tampering and making false statements to Congress?

The question in the title of this is prompted by this criminal justice news emerging from a federal courthouse in DC today: "Roger Stone, an ally of President Donald Trump, was found guilty Friday of lying to Congress and obstructing an investigation into Russia to protect Trump and his presidential campaign."  Here is some more about the case and convictions:

The jury's verdict came after about eight hours of deliberation.  Stone, a fixture in GOP politics, has worked on campaigns stretching back to Richard Nixon's.  Stone is the latest Trump ally to be found guilty in cases sprouting from a special counsel's investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election.

The verdict, reached by a jury of nine women and three men, comes amid an impeachment inquiry into allegations that Trump sought to pressure Ukraine into investigating a political rival....  Trump took to Twitter shortly after the verdict was announced. He decried a "double standard" and said law enforcement officials lied, including Robert Mueller, the special counsel who headed the Russia investigation.

Stone's trial ends after a week marked with Nixon quotes, references to the Mafia movie "The Godfather" and a colorful witness who offered to do a Bernie Sanders impression before an unamused federal judge.  The proceedings attracted the attendance of controversial figures, including alt-right firebrands Milo Yiannopoulos and Jacob Wohl.

Michael Caputo, a former Trump campaign adviser who attended the trial, said he was escorted out of the courtroom by a federal marshal for turning his back on the jurors as they walked out.  "Normal Americans don’t stand a chance with an Obama judge and a Washington jury," he tweeted.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson allowed Stone to go home as he awaits his sentencing, scheduled for Feb. 6.  A gag order preventing him from talking about the case remains in effect. He and his attorneys did not comment as they left the courthouse....

The proceedings revealed information about the Trump campaign's efforts to seek advance knowledge of emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee, which hurt Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton when Trump was trailing in the polls.  Testimony indicated these efforts involved the candidate himself.

Stone, 67, stood trial on accusations that he repeatedly lied to Congress about his back-channel efforts to push for the release of those emails. He was accused of urging a possible congressional witness to either lie or scuttle his testimony.

"Roger Stone lied … because the truth looked bad for the Trump campaign and the truth looked bad for Donald Trump," Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron Zelinsky told jurors.

Defense attorneys urged jurors to focus on Stone's state of mind, arguing he did not willfully mislead Congress.  The claim that Stone lied to protect the Trump campaign was "absolutely false," Bruce Rogow told jurors.  "It makes no sense," Rogow said, adding that the campaign was long over and Trump was already president when Stone testified before Congress in 2017. "Why would Stone lie, why would he make stuff up? ... There is no purpose, there is no reason, there is no motive."

Stone was found guilty of seven charges: one count of obstruction of an official proceeding, five counts of false statements and one count of witness tampering. The maximum penalty for all counts totals 50 years in prison, though first-time offenders generally receive significantly lower sentences.

Jurors heard from five government witnesses and saw dozens of emails and text messages that prosecutors said proved Stone lied.  His defense attorneys did not call any witnesses, and Stone, known for his flamboyance and combativeness, did not testify.  The charges stemmed from Stone's interactions with the Trump campaign in the summer of 2016, around the time that WikiLeaks, an anti-secrecy group, began publishing troves of damaging emails about the Democratic National Committee and Clinton.

Prosecutors said Stone lied to the House Intelligence Committee about his efforts to push for the release of those emails.  They said he lied about the identity of the person who tipped him off about WikiLeaks' plans — his so-called intermediary.  They said he falsely denied talking to the Trump campaign about what he learned and falsely told Congress he did not have text messages and emails in which he talked about WikiLeaks.

Prosecutors said Stone sought to silence a witness who could expose these lies by using threatening references from "The Godfather" movie.  Stone urged the witness in multiple emails to follow the steps of Frank Pentangeli, a character in "The Godfather II" who lied to Congress to avoid incriminating Mafia boss Michael Corleone.

In some settings, I would be inclined to predict that an elderly nonviolent first(?) offender is quite unlikely to get a lengthy prison term or even any prison time at all.  But these days and in these kinds of high-profile case, I am never quite sure what to expect or predict.

So, dear readers, what sentence do you think you would be inclined to impose?

November 15, 2019 at 03:20 PM | Permalink

Comments

First, some folks don't need a motive to lie. They just do.

Witness tampering is a, particularly, bad crime, especially with obvious threats.

I won't guess the time, because I have no clue as to what the average times sentenced for such crimes.

He'll have to get some prison time.

Posted by: Dudley Sharp | Nov 16, 2019 3:55:16 AM

Why do you care, Dudley, about the "average times sentenced for such crimes"? As you know, the "average" sentence for even the most aggravated of murders is not the death penalty, but would consider that a good argument against giving a death sentence in a particular case?

Not trying to troll you, Dudley, as much as trying to use this opportunity to highlight how inclined we all are to want to look to norms/customs/averages when we lack a strong view of the right outcome. But when we have a view of the right outcome, we tend not to be quite so concerned about norms/customs/averages.

Posted by: Doug Berman | Nov 16, 2019 7:49:08 AM

48 months in prison, 2 years of Supervised Release, and a significant fine.

Posted by: James Gormley | Nov 16, 2019 1:15:40 PM

My guess is his range will fall somewhere between 15-21 & 37-46 depending on whether he gets the significant obstruction enhancement, an obstruction adjustment, and whether count 7 groups. Overall, I'd predict 24-36 months.

Posted by: WP | Nov 16, 2019 4:14:25 PM

So, the FBI starts an investigation based on a "dossier" whose credibility they have reason to doubt, and they lie to a Court about that. But they want to send Stone to prison for lying.

In the interests of justice, I'd want no time for that reason.

But it won't happen. He'll get time. Probably some extra time due to the high-profile nature of his case and the trial penalty. I'm not enough of an expert to predict how much time, but definitely at least a year. The gag order is a strong clue.

Posted by: William C Jockusch | Nov 18, 2019 10:13:09 PM

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