Washington, Feb 21 (IANS) Roger Stone, US President Donald Trump’s longtime confidant, has been sentenced to 40 months in prison for lying to Congress and witness tampering during former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.
Thursday’s sentencing came after days of controversy surrounding the Justice Department’s decision to lessen the sentence after Trump had tweeted about his displeasure with the gravity of the original sentence recommendation, reports Xinhua news agency.
“Mr. Stone lied,” US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said in court.
Stone chose not to speak when given the opportunity.
Jackson sharply questioned the new attorney for the prosecution, John Crabb Jr. of the Washington D.C. Attorney’s Office, over the Trump administration’s sentencing reversal.
Crabb said he was not authorized to discuss internal department deliberations in open court, while praising the original prosecution team and insisting that the Justice Department is committed to doing its job without “fear or favour”.
In November 2019, a federal court jury found Stone guilty of lying to a House committee about his efforts to find out what WikiLeaks planned to do with hacked emails dealing with Trump’s Democratic rival Hillary Clinton during the 2016 US presidential election.
The jury concluded that Stone also urged a radio host to lie to Congress about their WikiLeaks conversations.
Stone was not charged with any underlying crime of coordinating with Russia during the 2016 election, although Mueller’s team investigated him over tweets claiming to be in touch with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Since Stone’s lawyers submitted a sealed motion last week seeking for a new trial, Jackson said Thursday’s sentence will be delayed from going into effect until after the motion is settled.
Career federal prosecutors initially recommended a prison sentence of seven to nine years last week.
Hours after Trump tweeted his displeasure, however, Attorney General William Barr intervened and directed the Justice Department to submit a new court filing, saying a three-to-four-year sentence would be “more in line with the typical sentences imposed” in similar cases.
Four prosecutors resigned in protest afterwards and Barr has been under fire on allegations of “misuse of the criminal justice system” since then.