- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 15, 2020

The U.S. Department of Justice has opened an internal investigation into the circumstances surrounding the prison sentence the government sought for Roger Stone, President Trump’s longtime friend, several outlets reported Monday.

Federal prosecutors initially recommended that Stone, 68, serve between seven and nine years in federal prison after a jury found him guilty of seven felony charges.

But the Justice Department intervened and recommended a lighter punishment, leading all four prosecutors who helped secure Stone’s conviction to subsequently resign from the case.

The Justice Department’s internal watchdog recently began examining the circumstances surrounding Stone’s sentencing, NBC News first reported Monday, citing two sources familiar with the matter.

“We welcome the review,” reacted Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec, Politico reported later Monday evening.

Stone was found guilty last year of perjury, obstruction and witness tampering. He was sentenced in February to serve 40 months in prison but ultimately had his sentence commuted by Mr. Trump.

Aaron Zelinsky, one of the four prosecutors who resigned from the Stone case, testified before Congress in June that the defendant was treated differently due to his relationship with the president.

There was “heavy pressure from the highest levels of the Department of Justice to cut Stone a break,” Mr. Zelinsky said at the time.

Testifying the following month on Capitol Hill, Attorney General William P. Barr defended how the Justice Department intervened in the Stone case.

“I agree the president’s friends don’t deserve special breaks, but they also don’t deserve to be treated more harshly than other people,” Mr. Barr said then.

A spokesperson for the Justice Department declined to comment when reached by The Washington Times. Its office of the inspector general does not confirm or deny any ongoing investigations, a representative for the watchdog separately told The Times.

Stone told The Times in a statement that he “wholeheartedly” welcomes any inquiry into the sentencing phase of his criminal trial and indicated he plans to raise related concerns of his own.

“The four prosecutors in my case defrauded the U.S. District Court and the public in this case in a manner substantially-prejudicial to my rights to a fair trial, with a full and complete airing of all relevant evidence bearing upon the charges against me,” Stone charged in the statement.

“I intend to soon file a formal comprehensive disciplinary complaint with the DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility outlining the antics and manipulations of the four prosecutors in my case, who are continually characterized falsely in media accounts as ‘non-partisan career prosecutors’,” Stone continued.

Stone also said Mr. Trump’s commutation of his sentence demonstrated that he was “denied a fair trial” and reiterated his gratitude for the president having prevented him from serving time in prison.

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