Republican political consultant Roger Stone requested a new trial Friday just days after President Donald Trump's criticism of his proposed jail sentence sparked an uproar over political influence in the justice system.
Roger Stone, former political adviser of U.S. President Donald Trump, outside a U.S. District Court in Washington, February 21, 2019. (Photo: CGTN)
Six days before he was to be sentenced, Stone filed a motion to the federal district court in Washington for a new trial on charges of lying to Congress and witness intimidation.
The motion was sealed so his arguments for a new trial were not clear.
But Stone's supporters recently accused one of the jurors of having been prejudiced against Stone before the trial began.
Earlier this week Trump himself tweeted in support of his longtime political advisor.
"Now it looks like the foreperson in the jury, in the Roger Stone case, had significant bias. Add that to everything else, and this is not looking good for the 'Justice' Department," Trump wrote.
The judge in the case, Amy Berman Jackson, told both sides to file their arguments on the motion on Tuesday.
Convicted of lying to Congress
Stone, part of Trump's successful 2016 presidential campaign, was arrested in January 2019 on charges brought by then-special counsel Robert Mueller as part of the Russia investigation.
He was accused of lying in testimony to Congress about acting as an intermediary between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks, which released hacked documents that embarrassed rival Hillary Clinton during the White House race.
Stone was convicted on all seven counts in November, and was scheduled to be sentenced on February 20.
Stone's supporters alleged on social media that the head of the jury, Tomeka Hart, had not been truthful about alleged anti-Republican biases when interviewed during jury selection.
"This juror should get the same treatment that anyone deemed a Trump supporter would get for committing perjury," Trump's son Donald Jr wrote Thursday on Twitter.
But the court transcript depicts Hart providing straightforward answers to questions about her political leanings and prior knowledge of the Mueller investigation.
It was not clear whether Stone's lawyers were aware of her social media postings strongly critical of Trump, but she told them she could judge Stone's case with an open mind.
Given a chance by the judge to strike Hart from the jury list, Stone's defense team accepted her with no objection.
In a Facebook post this week Hart, who lives in Tennessee, defended her role.
"As foreperson, I made sure we went through every element, of every charge, matching the evidence presented in the case that led us to return a conviction of guilty on all 7 counts," she wrote
The post is no longer online but was confirmed with Hart by the Daily Memphian newspaper.
Furor over Trump tweets
Stone's push for a new trial came after a week of turmoil that shook the Justice Department.
On Monday prosecutors recommended a stiff seven-to-nine-year prison term for Stone, saying he threatened a witness in the case and implicitly threatened the judge as well.
After Trump called the proposed sentence a "miscarriage of justice" in a late-night tweet and Attorney General Bill Barr intervened for a lighter sentence, the Justice Department attorneys who prosecuted the case resigned in apparent protest.
Barr called the sentence proposal "excessive" but denied allegations that he was doing Trump's bidding and politicizing the justice system.
Barr said Stone's case was a "righteous prosecution" and that he was "happy that he was convicted."
But he also criticized Trump's comments.
"I cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me," Barr said in an interview with ABC News.
"I think it's time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases."