WASHINGTON – A federal judge on Thursday denied a request for a new trial made by Trump ally Roger Stone following his conviction on charges related to the Russia investigation.
Stone claimed the jury forewoman was biased and petitioned for a new trial; his first such request was denied. It prompted Judge Amy Berman Jackson to call nearly all jurors back for a hearing, a highly unusual move, after Stone’s attorneys also alleged misconduct after some jurors spoke out publicly following the case.
During a trial, jurors are not allowed to read news accounts or social media posts about the case or discuss it with anyone until deliberations, but after their verdict is rendered, they are released from duty and can speak publicly if they wish.
New trial requests are not uncommon, but this case was surprising in many ways — including a barrage of tweets from President Donald Trump on the trial, threats by the attorney general to quit and the departure of the entire prosecution team following Justice Department leadership’s decision to back off its sentencing request.
In her 81-page memorandum, Judge Jackson said the lawyers had not proved the forewoman was biased or that any jurors acted inappropriately. She included details of their juror questionnaires in her explanation.
"The assumption underlying the motion – that one can infer from the juror’s opinions about the President that she could not fairly consider the evidence against the defendant – is not supported by any facts or data and it is contrary to controlling legal precedent," she wrote in denying the new trial. “The motion is a tower of indignation, but at the end of the day, there is little of substance holding it up.”
Stone was convicted on all seven counts of an indictment that accused him of lying to Congress, tampering with a witness and obstructing the House investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to tip the 2016 election.
He was the sixth Trump aide or adviser to be convicted on charges brought as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Before his Feb. 20 sentencing, the Justice Department leadership backed away from its initial recommendation just hours after Trump tweeted his displeasure at the recommendation of up to nine years in prison, saying it had been too harsh. The move led to a brief flare-up between Attorney General Willam Barr and Trump.
The decision on sentencing was Jackson’s to make. She sentenced Stone to more than three years in prison plus two years’ probation and a $20,000 fine.