By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org
Tuesday’s stunning news that the U.S. Department of Justice had disavowed its own prosecutors’ sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone – and that all four Stone prosecutors quickly withdrew from the case in apparent protest – overshadowed new comments from Stone’s supporters.
Stone, 67, was arrested at his Fort Lauderdale home in January 2019. He was convicted in November of lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstruction. Prosecutors said Monday that Stone, a confidant of President Trump, should be sentenced to seven to nine years in prison on the charges that arose from former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. On Tuesday, however, a senior Justice official told reporters that the recommendation had not been cleared and would be lowered because it was “grossly disproportionate to Stone’s offenses.”
DOJ’s statement was issued hours after President Trump tweeted around 2 a.m. about the prosecutor’s original sentence recommendation, calling it “a miscarriage of justice.” A Justice Department spokeswoman later told the Washington Post that the decision to change course was made before Trump’s tweet.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Kravis resigned from the government. Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys Aaron S. J. Zelinsky and Adam Jed, both former members of Mueller’s team, withdrew from the case on Tuesday. Tuesday. Zelinsky’s notice informed the court his resignation was “effective immediately.” Both remain federal prosecutors. Attorney Michael J. Marando also resigned from the case. None of the lawyers explained their decisions to leave.
Democrat leaders promptly called for an investigation. Stone’s sentencing before U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson is set for Feb. 20.
Meanwhile, defense attorneys filed nearly two dozen letters with Judge Jackson seeking leniency for Stone, a longtime political confidante of President Trump.
Morgan, Kent seek mercy for Stone
Pleas were made by Stone’s wife of 28 years, Nydia; his stepdaughter, Adria; the couple’s eldest grandchild, Katelyn Yeatts, and his pastor at Fort Lauderdale’s St. Anthony Catholic Church, The Rev. Michael J. Grady. But others wrote, too.
One letter was from wealthy Orlando lawyer John Morgan, a Democrat who teamed up with odd-bedfellow Stone in 2017 to push a pro-marijuana agenda as he considered a run for governor. He told Judge Jackson that Stone, a self-professed political “dirty trickster,” was “a regular person and very easy to get to know.”
“It is my opinion that Roger was a provocateur who enjoyed, even relished, the spotlight,” Morgan wrote. “This need for attention led him down this road. Not as a criminal but as a guy seeking attention. We agree on almost nothing politically. However, I believe that mercy is always superior to justice, especially in a case like this. Roger is not a criminal but a man with an ego that wanted to be more than he was. He has suffered enough. What can be gained by a prison sentence? I am asking for your mercy for this man. Please do the compassionate thing, the right thing and permit Roger to spend his remaining years with his family.”
Norm Kent, the Wilton Manors lawyer, radio host and publisher of South Florida Gay News, called Stone an individual “whose voice and vitriol gives life and meaning to an amendment that reads ‘Congress shall pass no law abridging freedom of the press.’ ”
“Roger Stone’s presence on the American political scene preserves diversity, insures breadth, and creates the very controversies that allow people to stand at the corner of a street and shout from a soapbox. We should embrace that behavior, not censure it,”Kent wrote. “Mr. Stone, for all the hoopla, is the kind of voice that belongs in the public arena. At different times, Roger has spoken out against the public tide for the legalization of marijuana and gay rights.”
Follow the money
Another letter was sent to the judge by Paul Rolf Jensen. Jensen is a Costa Mesa, CA attorney who specializes in federal election law. Stone is a former client and longtime friend that Jensen described as a “loving family man, intensely devoted to his family, and yes, his friends.”
According to the nonprofit, nonpartisan Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Jensen’s law firm during the 2016 election cycle “received payments totaling more than $200,000 from three political committees with connections to Stone, including $3,338 from the Trump campaign around the time Stone served as an advisor to it… The other two groups that made payments to Jensen & Associates during the 2016 cycle are the Committee to Restore America’s Greatness, which was run by Stone in 2016, and the Committee for American Sovereignty.”
Then there was a letter from Randy Credico, the liberal New York radio host and comedian. Credico was allegedly Stone’s intermediary to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to obtain damaging information about Trump’s 2016 rival, Hillary Clinton. Stone was accused of trying to pressure Credico into keep his mouth shut to government investigators by threatening his dog.
Credico testified as a government witness. He told Judge Jackson that he stands by his testimony, but had something to add.
“Most notably was after Mr. Stone’s defense attorney asked if I had ever thought Mr. Stone was going to steal or harm my dog Bianca. My answer was an emphatic ‘No.’ At the time I was hoping he would follow that question with another asking if I had ever personally felt threatened by Mr. Stone. The answer would have been the same. I never in any way felt that Stone himself posed a direct physical threat to me or to my dog. I chalked up his bellicose tirades to ‘Stone being Stone.’ All bark and no bite!”