Roger Stone’s underlying health issues are “medically controlled” and the prison he’s being sent to has no documented cases of coronavirus, and therefore he doesn’t merit an additional 60-day delay of his prison term, the judge in his case has determined in a newly unsealed opinion.
Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who last week ordered the former Trump adviser immediately into home confinement and to prison on July 14, said she was turning down Stone’s request for a delay until September because prosecutors have made similar arguments against releasing defendants whose health conditions were “in check.”
A few months after a high-profile intervention by Attorney General William Barr to try to gain a more lenient sentence for Stone, Jackson’s latest ruling appeared to reflect continued skepticism about the Justice Department’s response to Stone’s case, with the judge saying she expects the government to show as much flexibility for others as it has for Stone.
Jackson’s opinion, which she originally issued under seal on Friday, adds rationale to her decision to reject Stone’s request for a lengthy delay. Stone was convicted in November of repeatedly lying to House investigators pursuing evidence of Trump campaign contacts with Russians interfering in the 2016 U.S. election. He was also convicted of threatening a witness to impede the probe.
In the public version of her order, Stone’s specific medical condition was not identified, though he has previously indicated in social media postings that he has a history of asthma and respiratory issues.
Jackson sounded highly dubious of Stone’s contention that he required the delay for urgent health reasons. Jackson even cited the letter Stone submitted from his doctor and expressed doubt about Stone’s efforts at social distancing as the coronavirus pandemic has unfolded.
“The letter from defendant’s internist stated: I highly recommend that he maintain strict quarantine conditions. . . . . He should not be in any situations that would expose him to the SARSCOV-2 virus. He needs to maintain at least 6 feet distance from people. He should avoid closed quarters with many people,” Jackson wrote, quoting from the doctor’s note.
“Defendant’s response to the Court’s inquiry concerning his personal preventive practices and avoidance of public gatherings in accordance with these directives was vague, carefully parsed, and not reassuring,” Jackson said.
In addition, Jackson noted in the five-page opinion, other defendants who were granted extensions of their sentence were not —like Stone — already the beneficiary of a 60-day delay authorized by the Bureau of Prisons. And those other defendants, too, were not convicted of threatening violence against anyone.
“By contrast, Mr. Stone was convicted of threatening a witness, and throughout the course of these criminal proceedings, the Court has been forced to address his repeated attempts to intimidate, and to stoke potentially violent sentiment against, an array of participants in the case, including individuals involved in the investigation, the jurors, and the Court,” Jackson wrote.
Jackson praised the Bureau of Prisons policy allowing 60-day delays in prison-report dates for nonviolent defendants, but emphasized that she expected it to be applied fairly.
“This is a salutary policy, and judges and defendants in this courthouse and others will welcome its continued evenhanded application,” she wrote.
Though Jackson acknowledged knowing many of the details of Stone’s conduct before her original sentence — which permitted Stone to voluntarily report to prison rather than immediately remanding him to a federal facility — Jackson said that ordering Stone to prison immediately would have required him to be incarcerated at a jail 1,000 miles from his family and that he was not a flight risk.
“[I]t is fair to say that no one was contemplating that approving voluntary surrender could lead to a possible six-month delay in reporting,” Jackson added.
Stone has in recent weeks posted outrage about his position on Instagram, and he has pleaded with President Donald Trump for a pardon. While he wasn’t wearing a mask in many of his posts, he did don one amid Jackson’s consideration of his motion to delay his sentence.
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