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Judge in Roger Stone case says sentencing will move forward as planned

Judge: No sentencing delay for Roger Stone

Washington — The judge overseeing the case of longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone said his sentencing hearing will move forward as planned on Thursday, amid intense scrutiny of the Justice Department's handling of the case.

In a 12-minute conference call with the defense and prosecution teams on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said she will still hand down Stone's sentence at Thursday's hearing, but indicated she plans to defer the execution of the sentence until the court addresses Stone's request for a new trial.

"I'm willing to make sure that there are no consequences that flow from the announcement of what the sentencing will be," Jackson said on the call, which was broadcast in the courtroom.

Stone's legal team requested a new trial in a sealed filing on Friday, one day after President Trump alleged that the foreperson in his November trial showed "significant bias." The president tweeted about Jackson again Tuesday morning, apparently quoting a Fox News guest who argued Jackson should grant the request.

Prosecutors told Jackson they were in favor of moving forward with Thursday's sentencing as planned. But Seth Ginsburg, a lawyer for Stone, argued they should hold off until the motions before the court are fully addressed. 

"This issue goes to the heart of this case," Ginsburg said. "It should be resolved before any further proceedings are had."

Last week, all four government prosecutors in Stone's case abruptly withdrew, with one resigning outright, after senior Justice Department officials including Attorney General William Barr overruled their original sentencing recommendation to the court.

The prosecutors initially recommended that Stone be sentenced to seven to nine years in prison. A jury convicted him in November 2019 on seven counts, including obstruction, witness tampering and lying to investigators in a case stemming from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. Two of the prosecutors had worked on Mueller's team during the Russia probe.

Barr said in an interview last week that he decided to dial back the sentencing recommendation after the prosecutors filed their memorandum with the court but before Mr. Trump tweeted about it. After the prosecutors withdrew, the U.S. attorney in D.C. filed a new memo saying Stone should receive prison time but deferred to the court over the duration. Two newly assigned prosecutors on the case — John Crabb Jr. and J.P. Cooney — made their debuts on behalf of the government on Tuesday.

There has been significant fallout since the department softened the sentencing recommendation. The Federal Judges Association reportedly called an emergency meeting to discuss the matter on Tuesday. And since Sunday, more than 2,000 former Justice Department employees have signed an open letter calling for Barr's resignation and expressing support of the four prosecutors. 

"Barr's actions in doing the President's personal bidding unfortunately speak louder than words," they wrote. "Those actions, and the damage they have done to the Department of Justice's reputation for integrity and the rule of law, require Mr. Barr to resign."

The Justice Department declined to comment on the letter.

The intervention in Stone's case is not the first instance of involvement by senior Justice Department officials in prosecutions related to the government's Russia probe. The department is also reviewing the criminal case against Michael Flynn, the president's former national security adviser, a person familiar with the matter told CBS News on Friday.

Flynn pleaded guilty in December of 2017 to lying to the FBI. He has since asked to withdraw his guilty plea based on allegations that the prosecutor involved in the case, Brandon Van Grack, allegedly pressured Flynn to make false statements in a Virginia case against a former business partner. Van Grack was also on Mueller's team, and was involved in the prosecution of Paul Manafort.

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