Stone sentencing to go ahead amid pardon speculation


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Roger Stone, a longtime friend of President Donald Trump, on Tuesday lost his bid to delay his sentencing amid speculation that Trump might pardon him.

Stone is due to be sentenced on Thursday after he was found guilty in November of seven counts of lying to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering.

A lawyer for Stone on Tuesday argued that Thursday’s sentencing hearing should be postponed until after U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson rules on a request he made for a new trial.

Jackson rejected the proposed delay during a short conference call with lawyers on Tuesday, saying the proposal would not be prudent and is not required by law.

Trump on Tuesday pardoned seven people, including Rod Blagojevich, the ex-Illinois governor convicted of trying to peddle former President Barack Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat.

Trump told reporters he was “not thinking about that” when asked if he planned to pardon Stone, as well as two other associates who have been prosecuted – former campaign manager Paul Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

“We’re going to see what happens,” Trump said when asked if Stone deserved prison time. He added that Stone had been treated “very unfairly.”

The judge said the longtime Republican operative would not need to begin serving his sentence until she rules on his request for a new trial.

Stone’s sentencing is expected to draw widespread interest after senior officials at the Justice Department last week pulled back on an earlier sentencing recommendation by career prosecutors to keep Stone’s prison term within the U.S. sentencing guidelines of seven to nine years.

The intervention by Attorney General William Barr prompted all four career prosecutors who tried the case to withdraw, with one of them resigning from the department.

Barr last week told ABC News that Trump’s criticisms of those involved in Stone’s case “make it impossible for me to do my job.

Trump on Tuesday called Barr a “man of great integrity” but defended his right as president to be involved in any criminal case.

FILE PHOTO: Roger Stone, longtime ally of U.S. President Donald Trump, holds a news conference in Washington, U.S., January 31, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

“I’m actually, I guess, the chief law enforcement officer of the country. But I’ve chosen not to be involved,” Trump said.

In a new sentencing memo, the department said it viewed a sentence for Stone of between seven and nine years as excessive, but left it to the judge’s discretion what prison term would be appropriate.

Since then, Trump has used Twitter to attack the four prosecutors, as well as Jackson, who previously oversaw cases involving Trump’s other political allies, including Manafort.

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Jan Wolfe; Additional reporting by Lisa Lambert; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Dan Grebler

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