Washington — The federal judge who presided over the case of Roger Stone, President Trump's longtime ally, rejected his attempt to remove her from the case as he awaits a decision on a motion for a new trial over alleged juror misconduct.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson issued a sternly worded order Sunday in response to Stone's request, in which she said the filing was merely an attempt by his legal team to publicly claim she was biased against him.
"If parties could move to disqualify every judge who furrows his brow at one side or the other before ruling, the entire court system would come to a standstill," Jackson wrote in her order. "At bottom, given the absence of any factual or legal support for the motion for disqualification, the pleading appears to be nothing more than an attempt to use the Court's docket to disseminate a statement for public consumption that has the words 'judge' and 'biased' in it."
Stone's lawyers called for Jackson to recuse herself from the case because of comments she made at his sentencing hearing last week. Jackson sentenced Stone to 40 months in prison for lying to Congress about his efforts to collaborate with WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential campaign and threatening a witness.
During the sentencing hearing, Jackson said, "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."
Stone's legal team claimed Jackson's comments, specifically her remark that the jurors served "with integrity," raised questions about her impartiality in connection with the pending motion for a new trial alleging one of the jurors in his initial proceeding is biased against him.
In her six-page order, Jackson defended her comments and said Stone's attorneys honed in on three words in a 96-page transcript of a two-and-half-hour hearing. Her remark, she said, "does not begin to support that the court's impartiality has been compromised."
"Judges cannot be 'biased' and need not be disqualified if the views they express are based on what they learned while doing the job they were appointed to do," she wrote.
Stone was convicted of seven charges of obstruction, making false statements and witness tampering in November. His case arose out of former special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Stone has been on supervised release and under a gag order during his proceedings. Jackson said he does not have to report to prison to serve his sentence until she rules on his request for a new trial.
Appointed by President Barack Obama, Jackson was thrust in the spotlight further after Mr. Trump took to Twitter to defend Stone and claimed she treats those tied to him unfairly.