The Justice Department has now officially reversed course, filing a new lighter sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone less than a day after its initial filing.
The original recommended sentence of 7-9 years was “excessive and unwarranted,” prosecutors said in a new, unprecedented Tuesday filing.
The Tuesday filing marks a whiplash-inducing, extraordinary reversal in the case that benefits a vocal – and convicted – ally of the President’s.
Three federal prosecutors assigned to the Stone prosecution resigned from the case after the Justice Department made it known through the press that it intended to take back its earlier sentencing recommendation. That came after President Trump tweeted a complaint about the proposed sentence being too harsh.
Former federal prosecutors decried the move as an assault on the Justice Department’s traditional independence from partisan political influence, as DOJ leadership very publicly intervened to help Stone, who was convicted of making false statements to Congress, witness tampering, and obstruction.
The new filing makes only passing mention of the government’s previous recommendation in the case, filed less than 24 hours ago. Prosecutors said only that its earlier sentence recommendation “does not accurately reflect the Department of Justice’s position on what would be a reasonable sentence in this matter.”
The government went on to obliquely dispute elements of its earlier sentence recommendation, saying in part that “it was unclear to what extent” Stone’s post-indictment obstruction hindered the government at trial.
In the new filing, the government declined to make a recommendation beyond saying that incarceration was appropriate. Specific sentencing, the new memo reads, should be left to the judge’s discretion.
“The government defers to the Court as to what specific sentence is appropriate under the facts and circumstances of this case,” the document reads.
The new filing also attempts to dilute prosecutors’ earlier suggestion that Stone had threatened a witness in the case – a count on which he was convicted. The government now claims that because the witness in question – New York City comedian Randy Credico – said he never felt that Stone “posed a direct physical threat to me or my dog,” the court should “consider” Credico’s “beliefs.”
The filing was signed by John Crabb Jr., the acting chief of the criminal division in the DC US Attorney’s Office, who entered in his appearance in the case minutes before the memo was filed. Newly appointed U.S. Attorney Timothy Shea’s name is on the filing, as it was on the original sentencing recommendation.
Shea was a close aide to Attorney General William Barr, who only recently named Shea as the interim U.S. attorney.
Stone is set to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson on Thursday, Feb. 20.
Read the memo here: