- The Washington Times - Friday, April 17, 2020

A federal judge late Thursday denied Roger Stone’s bid for a retrial, ruling the jury forewoman was not biased nor did she act inappropriately against the longtime GOP operative.

Stone’s attorneys claimed the jury forewoman concealed her bias towards him.

Before Stone’s sentencing in February, jury forewoman Tomeka Hart publicly outed herself on Facebook applauding the work of the federal prosecutors. She had also posted on social media before the trial, criticizing Stone and calling President Trump’s supporters racist.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson said in a lengthy 81-page opinion that Ms. Hart is entitled to her opinions, which do not prove she acted inappropriately.

“The assumption underlying the motion — that one can infer from the juror’s opinions about the president that she could not fairly consider the evidence against the defendant — is not supported by any facts or data and it is contrary to controlling legal precedent,” she wrote. “The motion is a tower of indignation, but at the end of the day there is very little substance holding it up.”

Judge Jackson also scolded Stone’s lawyers for failing to fully research background or ask her questions to elicit her views. No one on Stone’s legal team even performed an internet search of Ms. Hart, according to Judge Jackson’s opinion.

“An effort to uncover social media activity would not have required the lawyers to pore over dusty family court records in the basement of a county courthouse. All they had to do was sit and type her name into an internet search engine on a laptop — a rudimentary practice that has been an inexpensive and popular arrow in the trial practitioner’s quiver for quite some time,” Jackson wrote.

Stone was convicted on seven criminal counts last year, including lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstructing a Congressional investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia ahead of the 2016 election.

He was sentenced to more than three years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

It is not clear what is next for Stone. He could appeal Judge Jackson’s opinion, but he may be ordered to report to a federal prison to begin his sentence in the meantime. The judge had halted his sentence until she reviewed his bid for a new trial.

However, the coronavirus pandemic has forced some prosecutors, judges and attorneys to be more circumspect about who is reporting to prisons to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.

Some jails are releasing elderly and low-level offenders early to serve their sentences at home. As a 67-year-old white-collar offender, Stone would certainly meet the criteria for home confinement.

Judge Jackson did not mention the coronavirus pandemic in her opinion. 

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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