On February 10, 2020, four Assistant U.S. Attorneys (AUSAs) filed a Government’s Sentencing Memorandum in the case of United States v. Roger J. Stone, Jr. The sentencing memorandum was submitted to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in connection with Stone’s scheduled February 20, 2020 sentencing hearing before Judge Amy Berman-Jackson. The scheduled sentencing is in response to Stone’s criminal convictions for one count of obstruction of a congressional investigation, five counts of making false statements to Congress, and one count of witness tampering.
The four AUSAs—Andrew Zelinsky, Adam Jed, Jonathan Kravis and Michael Marando—are career federal prosecutors who have established distinguished legal careers. Two of the prosecutors—Zelinsky and Jed—were part of the Robert Mueller probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Sentencing Enhancement for Threatening Witness
Under the provisions of U.S. Sentencing Guideline § 2J1.2(b)(1)(B), the AUSAs sought an eight-level sentencing enhancement because Stone’s witness tampering offense “involved causing or threatening to cause physical injury to a person, or property damage in order to obstruct the administration of justice.”
“Prepare to die, cocksucker,” Stone threatened the witness in writing, punctuating the threat with a collateral threat that he would “take that dog away from you.”
The witness would later submit a letter to the court stating that he did not “seriously believe” Stone would actually carry out the threats, although the witness stated that he had some concerns that if Stone’s threats were made public “other people [might] get ideas.”
The AUSAs rightly informed Judge Berman-Jackson that § 2J1.2(b)(1)(B) is triggered by the threat, not the “likelihood of carrying out the threat.”
Initial Recommendation Within Federal Sentencing Guidelines
The Government’s Sentencing Memorandum recommended that Judge Berman-Jackson impose a sentence of 7 to 9 years. The U.S. Sentencing Guidelines suggests a sentence of 87 to 108 months for the conduct for which Stone was convicted. The sentence recommended by the AUSAs was thus within the federal sentencing guidelines.
Roger Stone has for decades been a corrupt political fixer for President Donald J. Trump.
At 1:48 a.m. on Tuesday, February 11, Trump tweeted a broadside, scathing political attack against the AUSAs. The president was quite literally signaling to U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr that he wanted his personal friend and political loyalist to be given preferential treatment at his sentencing.
AG Asks Judge for Extraordinary Treatment for President’s Fixer
The attorney general responded with a revised Sentencing Memorandum seeking a sentence for Stone of between 15 and 21 months—far below the guidelines recommended sentence. This intervention by Barr marked the first time, as reported on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show on February 13, 2020, that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C. has ever recommended a sentence below the guidelines range for a defendant who pled not guilty, went to trial, and provided no assistance to the government.
In effect, Attorney General Barr was asking Judge Berman-Jackson to not only give Stone preferential treatment but to give him unheard of extraordinary special treatment—something the attorney general is trying to secure in two other cases in which the president has a particular interest: the Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort cases.
AUSAs’ Resign from Stone Case
Faced with this bizarre intervention by Attorney General Barr in the Stone case, the AUSAs resigned from the case with one of them (Andrew Zelinsky) resigning from the Justice Department altogether.
These four AUSAs have become “profiles in courage” for every individual involved in the nation’s justice system—prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges—who fight every single day to preserve the rule of law and protect the system from political corruption.
President Trump believes he is the “chief law enforcement officer” in the nation and that Article II of the U.S. Constitution bestows upon him the unfettered power to do whatever he pleases with the presidency.
Armed with this perceived unbridled authority and power, the president believes the Department of Justice and federal judges should respond with utter submission to his whims, dictates, and demands. Failure to do so will make the individual the target of the president’s unrelenting lunatic tweets.
President Criticizes Jury
President Trump has now taken the unprecedented action of criticizing the jury in the Stone case—a jury that reached a unanimous decision of guilt against the “Trump fixer.”
All of these combined presidential actions demonstrate the President’s clear orders that the DOJ assure his political friends are exonerated and his political enemies prosecuted.
These actions, we believe, are part of a disturbing pathological effort—one patterned after the way Russian President Vladimir Putin consolidated absolute power into the office of his presidency—by President Trump to dismantle all of the nation’s political, law enforcement, and intelligence-gathering institutions and reshape them as power tools to serve his own personal and political agendas, just as Putin has done in Russia in a few short years.
The only “lesson” (as suggested by Maine Senator Susan Collins) President Trump has learned from his impeachment is that the more his powers go unchecked, the more he can corrupt the powers of the presidency.
The Roger Stone case is only one example of the unbridled lunacy now in control of the nation’s White House—and the four AUSAs in that case exhibited the courage to stand up to that lunacy with their resignations.
We owe them our respect and admiration.