Convicted felon Roger Stone wants a new trial and he wants a different judge to oversee it.
On late Friday night, Stone’s attorneys filed a motion to disqualify U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in light of harsh comments she made against President Donald Trump‘s longtime friend and political confidant during his sentencing hearing earlier this week.
“The issue at hand arises from the Defendant’s pending Motion for a New Trial and statements made by Judge Berman-Jackson during the Defendant’s Sentencing Hearing on February 20, 2020,” the 7-page filing submitted with the D.C. District Court begins.
Stone has already filed a motion for a new trial based “on newly discovered information indicating that there was juror misconduct” during his initial trial.
Stone was recently convicted of several felonies after lying to Congress during the Russiagate probe led by then-special counsel Robert Mueller. But that’s honestly the least of the latest Stone-related controversy for himself and the White House.
Stone was initially given a harsh sentencing recommendation by career Department of Justice (DOJ) attorneys who asked for a 7- to 9-year sentence; Trump and Attorney General William Barr quickly intervened to get that recommendation whittled down. This resulted in a mass exodus of those same attorneys and rare rebuke from the judiciary itself. In the end, the headaches for DOJ didn’t amount to much; the replacement attorneys argued for the initial sentence request after all and Judge Jackson gave Stone 40 months in prison.
Amidst all this, news broke that one of Stone’s jurors was a former Democratic Party congressional candidate–thought it’s not clear that Stone’s trial request is actually based on this exact juror’s past.
“Stone’s Motion for New Trial is directly related to the integrity of a juror,” the disqualification motion notes later–referring to the sealed request filed on Valentine’s Day. “It is alleged that a juror misled the Court regarding her ability to be unbiased and fair and the juror attempted to cover up evidence that would directly contradict her false claims of impartiality.”
The defense filing alleges that this juror deprived Stone of his “constitutional right to be tried by an impartial jury.”
“Defendant’s Motion has not been ruled on,” the Friday filing notes. “The Court must still consider whether any juror interviews are appropriate in light of the allegations. However, given the statements made by Judge Berman-Jackson during the Sentencing Hearing, recusal under 28 U.S.C § 455(a) is warranted in order to protect the integrity and impartiality of the judicial system.”
Stone’s singled attorney’s out the following verbiage from that hearing [emphasis theirs]:
Everyone depends on our elected representatives to protect our elections from foreign interference based on the facts. No one knows where the threat is going to come from next time or whose side they’re going to be on, and for that reason the dismay and disgust at the defendant’s belligerence should transcend party. The dismay and the disgust at the attempts by others to defend his actions as just business as usual in our polarized climate should transcend party. The dismay and the disgust with any attempts to interfere with the efforts of prosecutors and members of the judiciary to fulfill their duty should transcend party. Sure, the defense is free to say: So what? Who cares?
But, I’ll say this: Congress cared. The United States Department of Justice and the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia that prosecuted the case and is still prosecuting the case cared. The jurors who served with integrity under difficult circumstances cared. The American people cared. And I care.
“Whether the subject juror (and perhaps others) served with ‘integrity’ is one of the paramount questions presented in the pending Motion,” the filing goes on. “The Court’s ardent conclusion of ‘integrity’ indicates an inability to reserve judgment on an issue which has yet been heard. Moreover, the categorical finding of integrity made before hearing the facts is likely to ‘lead a reasonably informed observer to question the District Judge’s impartiality. Public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary is seriously jeopardized when judges…share their thoughts about the merits of pending…cases.’ The premature statement blessing the ‘integrity of the jury’ undermines the appearance of impartiality and presents a strong bias for recusal.”
View Stone’s full motion to disqualify the judge below: