Citing Trump’s Tweets, Judge Restricts Access To Stone Proceedings To Protect Juror

Stone's bid for a new trial will unfold in semi-public view.
TPM Illustration/Getty Images
|
February 25, 2020 2:10 p.m.
EDITORS' NOTE: TPM is making our COVID-19 coverage free to all readers during this national health crisis. If you’d like to support TPM's reporters, editors and staff, the best way to do so is to become a member.

A judge on Tuesday said that she would be placing limitations on public access to the proceedings surrounding Roger Stone’s efforts to secure a new trial. The limitations were in order to protect the identity of a juror who is apparently central to Stone’s claims of juror misconduct that he said warranted a new trial.

In explaining the restrictions, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson brought up recent public statements by President Trump about the juror, as well as the “false” and “incendiary” claims about the jury selection process that were made by conservative media figures earlier in the proceedings.

“This is a highly publicized case, and in a highly polarized political climate in which the President himself has shone a spotlight on the jury through his Twitter platform,” the judge said, adding that “the risk of harassment and intimidation” was “extremely high” for the juror.

Stone’s request for the new trial was filed under seal, and other court documents related to the request have also been shielded from the public.

The move by the judge to impose the restrictions on the new trial request proceedings came just days after Stone was sentenced to three and a half years in prison for misconduct related to the House’s investigation of Russian election interference.

Stone had filed his request for a new trial under seal the week before his sentencing last Thursday, and the judge has put execution of his sentence on hold until the request is resolved.

After announcing the restrictions at a public hearing, Judge Berman Jackson said she would clear the courtroom for the proceedings regarding the underlying request for a new trial. However, an audio feed of the proceedings will be broadcast to a media room and an overflow courtroom for the public.

In explaining the restrictions, the judge implied that the juror in question may be testifying at the proceedings. The judge also told the parties to avoid saying the juror’s name, their jury number, and other information, including information about the juror’s social media accounts, that would identify the juror.

Until this point, the reasons that Stone has requested a new trial have remained hidden from the public. However, all signs point to allegations that have gained traction on conservative websites in recent weeks that have focused on a juror who previously ran for Congress as a Democrat. Transcripts from the jury selection process indicate that Stone’s defense team was aware of her unsuccessful congressional bid and did not seek to block her from being seated on the jury at the time. She is now being accused of lacking candor on her written jury selection form — a baseless allegation that has been egged on by Stone’s friend, President Trump.

Even while the details of Stone’s allegations remain undisclosed, his effort to secure a new trial has appeared unlikely to succeed. At Stone’s sentencing, Berman Jackson praised the jury in comments that Stone then tried to use to force the judge’s recusal from the case. Berman Jackson on Sunday night shot that disqualification effort down. Previously, Stone sought a new trial on the basis that one of the jurors worked for the IRS. The judge knocked that request down as well.

At Tuesday’s hearing on unsealing the proceedings, the judge brought up President Trump’s tweets attacking the juror who is apparently at the heart of the current dispute, as well as other public statements he’d made. She also noted the claims by Fox News host Tucker Carlson that an “anti-Trump zealot” was sitting in the jury, and the “incendiary, false” information about the jury broadcast by Alex Jones at the beginning of last year’s trial.

She warned that individuals angry about Stone’s conviction may choose to take it out on members of the jury personally.

Attempts to invade the privacy of the jurors, she said, are “completely antithetical to our entire system of justice.”

Update: About an hour after Judge Berman Jackson called out Trump’s public attacks on the twitter, he re-upped them.

This post has been updated.

Comments
advertisement
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Senior Editor:
Special Projects Editor:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Publisher:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Publishing Associate:
Front-End Developer:
Senior Designer: