A federal judge on Friday delayed the prison sentence of Trump ally Roger Stone for two weeks, and ordered him to spend that time at home, a de facto quarantine that puts him one step closer to serving his three-year term, according to new court filings.
Federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson said this arrangement “will address the defendant’s stated medical concerns” and will also “protect the health of other inmates who share defendant’s anxiety over the potential introduction and spread of the virus at this now-unaffected facility.”
Stone had been scheduled to report to a federal prison in Jesup, Georgia, next Tuesday. There are currently no confirmed coronavirus cases at the prison, according to recent court filings. The court order Friday night means that as of now, Stone must surrender at the prison on July 14.
The order came after a week of limbo. Stone requested a 60-day delay, and the Justice Department followed up by saying it supported his request, but stressed that he wasn’t getting special treatment because he is a longtime friend and adviser to President Donald Trump.
As Jackson’s order appeared on the court docket, Stone was on Fox Business Network, and suggested that the Justice Department was covering up the existence of a coronavirus outbreak at the prison where he’ll serve his sentence. He also repeated his request for a pardon from Trump.
“I think this is a death sentence,” Stone said. “I don’t think I will live to see my appeal succeed, which is why I have been very forthright about my praying that the President acts, either with a commutation of my sentence … or, of course, a pardon. That’s completely within his power.”
Stone was sentenced to more than three years in prison for lying to Congress about his role as a backchannel between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks during the 2016 election. He was also convicted of witness tampering after obstructing Congress’ inquiry into Russian meddling.
Earlier in the week, the Justice Department said it wasn’t opposing Stone’s request for a 60-day delay request because federal prosecutors in Washington DC and elsewhere are letting all defendants who aren’t a flight risk delay their prison terms during the coronavirus pandemic.
“The US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia has uniformly adhered” this standard for postponements, federal prosecutors said Thursday. “For that reason – and that reason only – the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia does not oppose” a 60-day postponement.
Prosecutors noted that this nationwide guidance was set by Attorney General William Barr and has been in place since March, when the coronavirus began spreading rapidly across the US.
In its filing on Thursday, the Justice Department explicitly denied trying “to exert any influence” over whether the Bureau of Prisons postponed or adjusted the date of Stone’s surrender.
The case has been marred by allegations of political interference by Trump, Barr and other top officials at the Justice Department. A career prosecutor who quit the Stone case in February testified to Congress this week that political appointees at the Justice Department meddled in the case to “cut Stone a break” at sentencing because of his close relationship with Trump.
On several occasions, Trump has said he is considering a pardon for Stone. Trump’s critics say this would amount to a brazen abuse of power – even if it is a legal exercise of presidential authority – because Stone was convicted of lying to Congress to specifically protect Trump.