The DOJ's Roger Stone Reversal Is Unlikely to Help Convicted Trump Ally, Former Federal Prosecutor Says

A decision from the Department of Justice to walk back its sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone this week is unlikely to help the convicted donald Trump ally's case, a former federal prosecutor has said.

"This is a very unique scenario," former federal prosecutor, Jacob Frenkel, who is now a criminal defense attorney at Dickinson-Wright, told Newsweek on Wednesday. He said while the situation is "unprecedented" it is unlikely to have a major impact on Stone's case.

Stone, a former adviser to President Donald Trump, is expected to be sentenced later this month after being convicted in November of obstructing the House Intelligence Committee's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, lying to investigators under oath and engaging in witness tampering by attempting to block the testimony of a witness with the potential to expose his dishonesty.

The DOJ had put forward a proposed sentence recommendation of seven to nine years on Monday, but hours after President Donald Trump railed against the proposal, calling it "horrible and unfair," Timothy Shea, the U.S. Attorney for Washington submitted a new court filing suggesting a lower sentencing time and branding the initial recommendation "excessive and unwarranted."

Newsweek subscription offers >

The timing of the DOJ's reversal, following so shortly on the heels of Trump's outburst, prompted widespread outrage, with four federal prosecutors on the case resigning from their roles, including one prosecutor who resigned from the department altogether.

Meanwhile, more than 100,000 people signed an online petition calling for an investigation into the sudden walk-back.

"It's certainly unfortunate that this situation arose," Frenkel said. "That you had four career prosecutors withdraw from the case, then one resign altogether from the Justice Department."

"We don't know what was going on behind the scenes at the Justice Department," he said. However, Frenkel said he believed prosecutors' resignations came because they felt they had been "undermined" by Shea's reversal. Whether that reversal was influenced by Trump's tweet, he said, is not something we have insight into—yet.

Newsweek subscription offers >

Still, he said, "for prosecutors to withdraw from a case and even to withdraw from the Department of Justice, that clearly reflects very strong beliefs and ethics, such that they were not prepared to stand behind something they believed was contrary to the interests of justice."

Regardless of what happened within the DOJ, however, Frankel said ultimately, the department's reversal is unlikely to help Stone's case because "fundamentally, the decision about sentencing is one that is exclusive to the judge."

Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is presiding over Stone's case, Frenkel said, "is not going to be influenced by the president's choice, by the change of position of the Justice Department, by the resignation of the prosecutors or by the protestations of the public," he said.

Roger Stone
Trump associate Roger Stone returns for his trial after lunch on November 13, 2019 in Washington, D.C. Stone is expected to face sentencing later this month. Mark Makela/Getty

"It is not likely that this federal judge is going to be influenced by all the commotion." Instead, Frenkel said, "the judge is going to determine the sentence based on what she believes the facts presented at the trial warrant under the circumstances."

"Certainly we're dealing with an unprecedented scenario," the former federal prosecutor acknowledged. "But, what the judge is going to be concerned about...is the independence and the integrity of the judiciary."

"If the judge were to let all of the noise influence her decision, then that would compromise how federal judges approach sentencing," he said.

Frenkel said it is important for concerned Americans to keep in mind that "when a judge proposes a sentence, the judge will articulate the reasons for that sentence." So, "what we really need to do is listen to what the judge says."

Ultimately, Frenkel said: "I believe the independence of the judiciary will prevail."

The DOJ's Roger Stone Reversal Is Unlikely to Help Convicted Trump Ally, Former Federal Prosecutor Says | U.S.