United States President Donald Trump’s former advisor Roger Stone was sentenced to three years and four months in federal prison on Thursday for lying to the US Congress and obstructing an investigation into alleged collusion between Russia and Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016, Reuters reported.
Stone was arrested in Florida in January 2019. The charges against him stemmed from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections.
US District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who issued the order, said Stone’s lies to the House Intelligence Committee about his attempts to contact Wikileaks – the website that released damaging emails about Trump’s opponent and Democratic candidate Hilary Clinton – amounted to a threat to American democracy, BBC reported. “Stone was not prosecuted for standing up for the president,” she added. “He was prosecuted for covering up for the president.”
Jackson also sentenced the political strategist to two years of probation after his time in prison, and fined him $20,000 (Rs 14.39 lakh). The judge said Stone’s crimes demanded a significant time behind bars, but she said the seven to nine years originally recommended by the Department of Justice were excessive. Stone’s lawyers had asked for probation, citing his advanced age – he is 67 years old – his health, and lack of criminal history.
At the hearing, which lasted for over two hours, Jackson called Stone an “insecure person who craves and recklessly pursues attention”, according to CNN. She said the politics surrounding the case did not inform her ultimate decision.”The truth still exists. The truth still matters.”
Delivering a rebuke to Trump, the judge cited the president’s words and said: “There was nothing unfair, phony or disgraceful about the investigation or the prosecution.”
Jackson accused Stone of engaging in “threatening and intimidating conduct” towards her. She said he knew “exactly what he was doing” when he posted an image on social media last year in which a gun’s cross-hairs were positioned over her head. “The defendant engaged in threatening and intimidating conduct toward the court,” she added. “This is intolerable to the administration of justice.”
The judge noted that Stone was not charged with or convicted of having any role in conspiring with Russia. “But Stone’s effort to obstruct a congressional investigation into Russian election meddling was deliberate, planned [and] not one isolated incident,” she added.
The political strategist did not have an immediate reaction in court when the sentence was announced. His attorney Bruce Rogow said Stone and his team would “have no comment.” He was met with chants of “Lock him up” and “Pardon Roger Stone” as he emerged from the courthouse later, Time reported.
Reacting to the conviction, Trump said he would not do anything about it yet, and added that he wanted the process to play out before taking a decision, CNN reported. “I’m not going to do anything in terms of the great powers bestowed upon a president of the United States, I want the process play out, I think that’s the best thing to do,” Trump said in Las Vegas. “Because I’d love to see Roger exonerated and I’d love to see it happen because I personally think he was treated very unfairly.”
On Tuesday, Trump had granted clemency to prominent white-collar criminals such as financier Michael Milken and former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Stones is the sixth Trump aide convicted on charges linked to a justice department inquiry that uncovered Russian attempts to aid Trump’s 2016 campaign.