The New York City Bar Association on Wednesday issued a stinging rebuke of Attorney General William Barr and the Justice Department, expressing “deep concerns about the impartial administration of justice” with regards to former Trump advisor Roger Stone’s prosecution.
In a letter addressed to DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz and the leaders of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, the Bar Association warned that DOJ’s intervention in Stone’s sentencing recommendation reflected a disregard for the rule of law and posed a serious danger to the American criminal justice system.
“Recent actions by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, a component of the United States Department of Justice, raise serious questions about whether the Department of Justice is making prosecutorial decisions based not on neutral principles but in order to protect President [Donald] Trump’s supporters and friends,” the Bar Association wrote. “In our criminal justice system, a single standard must apply to all who are accused or convicted of violating the law—unequal treatment based on political influence is to be deplored in all cases but is especially dangerous if it emanates from the presidency.”
After recounting the events leading up to the resignation of the prosecutors assigned to Stone’s case, the Bar Association disabused lawmakers of the notion that the DOJ’s conduct was in any way aligned with normal operating procedures, referring to the recent developments as “highly unusual and irregular.”
“The Department of Justice is not in the habit of taking one position in court and then, without explanation, taking a startling different position on the very next day,” the Bar wrote. “This sudden turnabout is itself disturbing. In addition, the Department of Justice is known for rarely asking the sentencing court to impose a sentence below the Guidelines range, other than when the defendant is a cooperating witness or when the defendant’s case presents unusual mitigating factors.”
The letter also took direct aim at the personal relationship between President Trump and Stone, saying it was plain to anyone observing this situation that it appeared to influence the DOJ’s decision-making process (i.e., “Barr acting in concert to protect Stone”).
“[T]his appears from all external circumstances to be an instance of President Trump and Attorney General Barr acting in concert to protect Stone from punishment,” the letter stated. “Stone is a lifelong friend and advisor of President Trump. Indeed, Stone’s conviction was for obstructing an investigation into President Trump, his family, and his advisors for encouraging Russian interference with the 2016 election. While the connecting events may never be fully known, the mere fact and timing of the Department of Justice decision to overrule the prosecutors who handled the case—just hours after President Trump’s tweet—is itself suggestive of improper influence. Even this appearance of improper influence is detrimental to the fair administration of justice, the rule of law and the public’s trust in the justice system.”
Read the full NYC Bar Association letter below:
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