Legal Analysis

Law Prof Suggests Trump Pardon May Not Be Enough to Save Roger Stone

Right-wing author Jerome Corsi, a known associate of Roger Stone, has been speaking out since Stone was arrested and indicted on charges including false statements about communications he allegedly made regarding WikiLeaks and the publication of hacked Clinton campaign emails. Earlier this week, Corsi recalled how Stone wanted emails to be released in time to counter the yet-to-be-released damaging Access Hollywood footage of Donald Trump making vulgar comments about women to Billy Bush (the emails were released soon after the video came out). If true, this could mean that Stone could have had involvement in the WikiLeaks email dump.

Fordham Law Professor Jed Shugerman stated that while this tidbit may not be the basis for any new charges from Mueller, it could be grounds for state charges, which would not be affected if President Trump were to grant Stone a pardon.

“If a pardon comes down for Stone, could he face any state liabilities?” Shugerman posited. “The key thing about a presidential pardon is it only affects federal criminal liability.”

Shugerman wondered if this was part of Mueller’s plan all along, in order to leverage him into cooperating.

“Did Mueller strategically bring certain charges in the indictment that only a federal prosecutor could bring … and did he leave out other charges that could potentially be brought by New York State?” the professor asked. “Could you bring a state charge under New York law for aiding and abetting a hacking conspiracy, or for soliciting stolen goods?

Shugerman’s second example may not be the best. Stone is not accused of asking WikiLeaks to give him stolen goods–as far as we know, the emails were only published online, not given over to Stone or the campaign. Furthermore, once we start talking about charging people with publishing stolen materials (if they weren’t involved in the theft), serious First Amendment concerns are raised. After all, newspapers are allowed to do this, and this is one reason why the DOJ had been hesitant to charge Julian Assange in the past.

Now, a charge related to aiding and abetting a hacking conspiracy would be interesting if there was actually evidence that such a conspiracy existed. So far, no evidence has been revealed that shows such collusion with Russia and the Trump campaign, which has been a main focus of Special Counsel Robert Mueller‘s investigation. If, however, Mueller does have evidence that some people were involved in such illegal collusion, Shugerman’s theory could work if Mueller wanted Stone to give up others who may have been involved.

Shugerman acknowledged that state based on what we currently know, state charges wouldn’t be a “slam dunk,” but they would still not be affected by a presidential pardon, so having that as a possibility could be incentive for Stone to cooperate.

[Image via Alex Wong/Getty Images]

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