- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 12, 2020


Federal prosecutors’ initial recommendation that Roger Stone serve between seven to nine years in prison was unusually excessive compared to similar sentences imposed for lying to Congress, according to an analysis by The Washington Times.

The Times reviewed similar cases and found most defendants received far shorter sentences:

⦁ Watergate-era figures H.R. Haldeman and John Mitchell were both sentenced to eight years for lying to Congress, but their terms were reduced to four years. Ultimately, Mitchell and Haldeman served 19 months and 18 months, respectively.

⦁ Harvey Matusow, an FBI informant in the 1950s, was convicted of lying to Congress for falsely naming 200 people as Communists or communist sympathizers during the Red Scare. He faced 25 years in prison, but only received five and ultimately served 44 months.

⦁ Baseball star Miguel Tejada received a year of probation for withholding information about a former’s teammate’s use of performance-enhancing drugs when he appeared before a congressional panel in 2005.

⦁ Two other baseball stars accused of lying at the same hearing were not punished at all. Roger Clemens was acquitted in his criminal trial and the Justice Department declined to press charges against Rafael Palmeiro, who flunked a steroid test after denying using a banned substance.

Two other political figures ensnared in then-special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe also were convicted for lying to Congress:

⦁ Lobbyist W. Samuel Patten pleaded guilty and prosecutors dropped the charge. He got three years probation for illegal lobbying.

⦁ Former Trump fixer Michael Cohen received four years in prison after he pleaded guilty to lying to Congress and other crimes.

The Justice Department’s move this week to reduce the sentencing recommendation for an ally of President Trump set off a politically-charged fracas in Washington. Capitol Hill Democrats demanded an investigation into why the department overruled prosecutors’ initial request as “excessive and unwarranted.”

A Washington jury convicted Stone in November of lying to Congress, obstruction of justice and witness tampering for thwarting lawmakers’ investigation into Trump campaign collusion with Russia.

The key difference between Stone’s and other cases is he also went down for obstruction and tampering with witnesses. Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington said the added convictions demanded more prison time.

They were “piling on,” said former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy.

“A sentence of nine years is unreasonable,” he said. “The Justice Department could have brought this whole case as one count of obstruction and instead brought seven felonies.”

The tampering charge, which prosecutors said warranted the harsher penalty, stemmed from Stone threatening his former friend Randy Credico and his former friend’s dog if Mr. Credico testified before Congress.

Stone said, “Prepare to die,” referring to Mr. Credico with a sexual vulgarity and threatened to “take that dog away from you,” according to court records.

The stiffer penalty is unfair, Mr. McCarthy said, because Mr. Cedico testified that he didn’t take the threats seriously and urged a federal judge to spare Stone from prison.

“The threats by Stone were not the typical threats you see from serious criminals in organized crime or gang cases where the threats were real,” Mr. McCarthy said. “The threats look like lunatic rantings by Stone.”

He didn’t suggest Stone should go free but said the initial recommendation was excessive.

Still, prosecutors often ask judges to throw the book at defendants who roll the dice on a trial rather than plead guilty.

“Cooperators who plead guilty typically get a lower sentence on average because there is an assumption of responsibility. If you go to trial and lose, you usually should expect a higher sentence. It is the way the system is designed to function,” said former Justice Department lawyer Jamil Jafer.

Mr. Trump lambasted the four prosecutors who resigned from the case Tuesday, including one who quit the Justice Department, after department higher-ups intervened.

“People were hurt viciously and badly by these corrupt people,” the president said, reviving his frequent complaint about the Mueller team.

One of the four prosecutors who quit the case had worked on Mr. Mueller’s team.

Mr. Trump declined to say whether he would pardon Stone.

Earlier, Mr. Trump praised Attorney General William Barr for “taking charge” of the Stone matter, further enraging Democrats who say the president has politicized the Justice Department.

The House Judiciary Committee will grill Mr. Barr about his role in the Stone case March 31. The appearance will end a yearlong standoff with the committee after Mr. Barr refused to appear regarding the Mueller investigation.

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

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