A federal judge has denied Donald Trump confidant Roger Stone a new trial after he made a request for one under seal, according to a notice from the court.
Judge Amy Berman Jackson made her ruling known on Wednesday, her first public response following the withdrawals of all the prosecutors on the case the day before. She has not yet acknowledged the prosecutor withdrawals.
The denial was decided last week, before the eruption over the Justice Department’s revised sentencing recommendation in the last few days.
Stone argued that his trial should be reheard because one juror should not have been allowed to be on the panel, according to the partially redacted order. He claimed he deserved a new trial “because the Court failed” to strike a juror from the jury pool “for bias because (the person) is employed in a division of the Internal Revenue Service” that worked with the Justice Department on criminal tax cases, and because the juror said he or she had read the news about Stone’s arrest and about the case. The judge had asked if that had given the juror any opinions about the case, and the juror responded, “No.” The juror’s name was not disclosed.
“The fact that the juror was just one of these approximately 1,400 lawyers (at the IRS) does not begin to establish the sort of inherent bias that should have prompted the Court to strike (the person) in its discretion,” Jackson wrote last week.
Because of the juror’s “testimony and demeanor” and the process the court used to select jurors at Stone’s trial, “the Court finds in its discretion that it was not necessary to strike the juror for alleged bias or for failure to follow the Court’s instructions. The defense has not presented grounds for a new trial … or any reason to believe there has been ‘a serious miscarriage of justice.’ “
News of Stone’s denied request comes just one day after the four federal prosecutors who had successfully taken his case to trial withdrew their involvement after top Justice Department officials intervened by reducing the government’s recommended sentence.
The mass withdrawal punctuated a stunning cascade of developments set into motion on Monday when prosecutors from the DC US Attorney’s Office, who are Justice Department employees, wrote in a filing that a judge should issue Stone a seven-to-nine-year sentence.
Trump weighed in on Twitter overnight on Tuesday, calling that recommendation a “horrible and very unfair situation.”
And by midday Tuesday, a senior Justice Department official said that the original sentencing recommendation from the prosecutors, transmitted to a judge and signed off on by the office’s top prosecutor, had not been communicated to leadership at the Justice Department.
“The Department was shocked to see the sentencing recommendation,” the official told CNN. “The Department believes the recommendation is extreme and excessive and is grossly disproportionate to Stone’s offenses.”
In the revised sentencing recommendation, filed Tuesday afternoon, federal prosecutors still asked for Stone to be sentenced to prison but said it should be “far less” than the office had asked for a day earlier. The prosecutors declined to say how much time in prison Stone should serve.
The rapid-fire developments in the case raised questions about the Justice Department’s independence from political pressure and prompted congressional Democrats to call for the Justice Department inspector general to investigate.
Stone was found guilty in November of five counts of lying to Congress, one of witness tampering and one of obstructing a congressional committee proceeding. Among other things, he had misled Congress about his communications with Trump campaign officials in 2016, the jury unanimously decided.
According to prosecutors, Stone lied during testimony and failed to turn over documents to Congress in 2017 showing he had sought to reach WikiLeaks the previous year. He lied about five facts, obscuring his attempt to use intermediaries to get information that could help then-candidate Trump in the election against Hillary Clinton.