Roger Stone's attorneys file to force judge on case to recuse herself due to multiple bias issues
As former Trump aide Roger Stone seeks a new trial, his attorneys now argue the presiding judge in his case must recuse herself while raising concerns about her partiality.
Judge Amy Berman Jackson, an Obama appointee, praised the jury during Stone's sentencing on Thursday for multiple crimes, including lying to the House Intelligence Committee, obstruction of a congressional investigation, and witness tampering. In a filing late Friday, Stone's team took issue with the way Jackson commended them, though she did not refer to any specific juror.
Stone's attorneys cite one particular statement by Jackson, when she said, "the jurors who served with integrity under difficult circumstances cared."
In seeking a retrial, Stone's lawyers alleged one of the members of the jury, Tomeka Hart, was not an impartial juror due to her past partisan activity. Hart, who was a former Democratic congressional candidate and a program officer for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, repeatedly shared anti-Trump posts on social media.
“I can't keep quiet any longer,” Hart said in a Facebook post first reported by CNN. “I want to stand up for Aaron Zelinsky, Adam Jed, Michael Marando, and Jonathan Kravis — the prosecutors on the Roger Stone trial who have all resigned from the case in response to the DOJ's interference with their sentencing recommendation.”
Despite Hart's obvious in-trial bias, Jackson sentenced Stone on February 14 to 40 months for obstruction of justice and 12 months for the other five counts to be served concurrently. Stone also received a $20,000 fine and 24 months of supervised release when he gets out.
Stone's attorneys could not believe the revelation of that post, and the surfacing of several other social media entries by Hart, did not result in a mistrial, much less that the Jackson chose to proceed with sentencing. Their credulity was reflected in their filings Friday.
"The issue at hand arises from the Defendant's pending Motion for a New Trial ... and statements made by Judge Berman-Jackson during the Defendant's Sentencing Hearing on February 20, 2020. Stone's argument for a new trial rests on newly discovered information indicating there there was juror misconduct during Mr. Stone's trial, thereby depriving him of his constitutional right to be tried by an impartial jury. Defendant's Motion has not been ruled on, and in fact, the Defendant's Reply to the Government's Opposition is not yet due, nor has a hearing been set," the motion for judicial disqualification from Stone's lawyers said.
"The Court must still consider whether any juror interviews are appropriate in light of the allegations. However, given the statements made by Judge Berman-Jackson during the Sentencing Hearing, recusal ... is warranted in order to protect the integrity and impartiality of the judicial system," filing with the U.S. District Court in Washington added.
Jackson said she’d rule on the retrial motion after sentencing. She previously presided over a number of other spinoff cases from special counsel Robert Mueller’s two-year investigation, including against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former Trump campaign deputy turned government witness Rick Gates, and former Obama White House counsel Greg Craig.
One big question that remains unresolved: whether the Republican operative will receive a pardon from President Trump, who tweeted a segment from Tucker Carlson's show on Fox News calling for a Stone pardon early Thursday morning.
Hours earlier, speaking at the commencement address at the Hope for Prisoners graduation in Las Vegas, Trump said Hart was "totally tainted. He added, "I'm following this very closely, and I want to see it play out to its fullest because Roger has a very good chance of exoneration, in my opinion."