Today, Tuesday, November 5th, will be the opening day of the trial of Roger Stone.
U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who was nominated by then-President Barack Obama for her federal judgeship, will preside over the case.
Jackson has established a two-week window for the trial – which, as detailed below, pretty much guarantees that Stone will be convicted (and perhaps even incarcerated) by Thanksgiving.
Stone is facing a total of seven charges: Count 1: Obstruction of Proceeding; Counts 2-6: False Statements; and Count 7: Witness Tampering.
All of the charges stem from his September 26, 2017 appearance before the House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) – which was investigating the alleged involvement of Russia in the U.S. 2016 presidential election.
Although he could have – and, in retrospect, probably should have – invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and simply refused to answer any questions from the HPSCI Committee, Stone did not do so.
Instead, he answered all the questions that were asked of him – which is what led to the charges he is now facing.
The specifics behind the pending charges are as follows:
RE: Count 1: Obstruction of Proceeding: In conjunction with this charge, the prosecution is claiming that Stone interfered with the HPSCI hearing by testifying falsely, by failing to turn over requested documents, and by providing misleading information as to who acted as his intermediary with Julian Assange, the head of WikiLeaks, in mid-August 2016. In addition, the prosecution is also claiming that Stone attempted to have another witness, Randy Credico, provide false testimony when he later appeared before the HPSCI (Credico actually invoked his Fifth Amendment rights – and refused to answer any questions).
RE: Counts 2-6: False Statements: All five of these charges are based on what the prosecution claims were “materially false, fictitious and fraudulent statements” that Stone gave to specific questions he was asked during the hearing.
RE: Count 7: Witness Tampering: In conjunction with this charge, the prosecution is claiming that Stone “corruptly convinced” Credico not to testify before the HPSCI.
The case is being jointly prosecuted by attorneys from the Office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C.
Stone is being represented by Grant Smith and Bruce S. Rogow.
Pre-Dawn Raid Signaled How Stone Would Be Treated
Right from the outset, the federal government made it very clear that Stone was going to treated as harshly as possible.
That’s why instead of notifying his attorneys that Stone had been indicted and allowing him to surrender himself, the FBI conducted a military-style, pre-dawn raid on his home in Fort Lauderdale, FL on January 25th.
For those who were watching CNN at the time, they even got to see more than a dozen FBI agents and local police storm the house in “real-time” because the network had been tipped off about the raid – and had cameras set up to cover it.
Things Have Not Gone Much Better for Stone Since His Arraignment
In the intervening ten months since his arraignment, Stone has filed numerous motions regarding various aspects of his case.
Judge Jackson has ruled against him on almost every one of those.
One of the few rulings that went his way had to do with the prosecution’s plan to show a scene from the movie The Godfather – Part II during Stone’s trial.
The indictment against Stone charges that he pressured an associate to “do a Frank Pentangeli” in his testimony before the HPSCI. In the 1974 film, Pentangeli (played by Michael V. Gazzo) is a lieutenant in the Corleone mafia family who recants incriminating Senate testimony after the family arranges for his brother to sit in the audience for the hearing.
In denying the prosecution’s request to show the scene from the film, Jackson noted: “The government will not be permitted to introduce the clip itself in its case in chief because the prejudicial effect of the videotape, which includes a number of extraneous matters, outweighs its probative value”.
But, despite those concerns, Jackson also ruled that the prosecution will be allowed to introduce the dialog from that scene as evidence in the case against Stone.
So, even when Stone wins a rare ruling, he still loses.
Raising Money for His Defense Has Been Hard
Stone has spent much of the last ten months trying to raise money to cover his legal expenses – which are expected to be approximately $3 million (For those Frank Report readers who still don’t understand why 97% of federal defendants end up taking plea deals rather than going to trial, just contemplate the cost for a 2-week trial).
Thus far, more than 45,000 people from across the country have donated almost $2 million to Stone’s defense fund.
But Stone has also noted that even some long-time friends and associates have shunned his requests for donations. “When you are in a crisis, you find out who your real friends are. You also find out who your real friends aren’t”, he said.
Throughout the time that he has been trying to raise money for his defense fund, Stone has been under a “gag order” that prevents him from publicly discussing any aspect of his case – a situation that has seriously hampered his fund-raising efforts.
He has also been under travel restrictions that have limited his ability to attend as many fundraisers as he otherwise would have done.
Some Surprise Witnesses Expected
According to the National Law Journal, one of the witnesses that the government plans to call in Stone’s trial is Steve Bannon, the former White House strategist and head of Breitbart.
Bannon will be appearing voluntarily rather than in response to a subpoena.
A person familiar with Bannon’s expected role in the trial says Bannon will likely testify that he communicated with Stone throughout the 2016 Presidential campaign – and that Stone “was portraying himself to Bannon as someone who was in touch with Assange.”
Rick Gates, who was deputy campaign manager for the Trump presidential campaign, is also expected to testify as a prosecution witness in Stone’s trial. Gates is expected to testify that Stone passed along information that supposedly came from WikiLeaks to the Trump campaign.
Many see the Stone trial as part of the overall push to impeach Trump – especially with respect to matters concerning WikiLeaks.
Stone himself could provide some blockbuster testimony if he were to take the stand in his own defense.
That’s because Trump provided written answers to the following questions posed to him by Special Counsel Robert Mueller:
– Were you told of anyone associated with you or your campaign, including Roger Stone, having any discussions, directly or indirectly with WikiLeaks…regarding the content or timing of released or hacked emails?
– Did Mr. Stone ever discuss WikiLeaks with you, or, as far as you were aware, with anyone else associated with the campaign?
– Did Mr. Stone at any time inform you about contacts he had with WikiLeaks or any intermediary of WikiLeaks, or about the forthcoming release of information?
In his written responses, Trump made these two statements:
– “I do not recall being told during the campaign that Roger Stone or anyone associated with my campaign had discussions with any of the entities named in the question regarding the content or timing of the release of hacked emails”.
– “I do not recall discussing WikiLeaks with [Stone], nor do I recall being aware of Mr. Stone having discussed WikiLeaks with individuals associated with my campaign”.
Trump also noted that although he had spoken with Stone “from time to time during the campaign”, he had no “recollection of the specifics of any conversations he with Stone between June 1, 2016, and Election Day”.
Can Stone Get a Fair Trial in the District of Columbia?
Given the composition of registered voters in the District of Columbia, it seems very unlikely that Stone will actually be tried by a jury of his peers.
That’s because 76% of those voters are registered as Democrats – while only 6% are registered as Republicans. Another 1% are registered with the D.C. Statehood Green Party and 1% with the Libertarian Party – and the remaining 16% are registered with other parties or no party at all.
If he is convicted on all counts, Stone could be facing a maximum sentence of 50 years. Assuming, however, that his sentences would run concurrently – and that he’ll be fairly evaluated as a first-time offender – his actual sentence will more likely be in the 4-6 years range.
Compare that, if you will, to the 21-27 months that Clare Bronfman will be facing when she’s sentenced next January.
Ahh, justice in America…Whatever you can afford is what you get.