Prosecutors in charge of the federal case against Roger Stone may have lied to the Department of Justice about their lengthy prison sentence recommendation for Stone, according to a new report.
Fox News reported earlier today that DOJ was blindsided by the formal recommendation from operatives tapped by former Special Counsel Robert Mueller that Stone be sentenced to up to nine years in prison. A source told Fox that the sentence recommendation was “extreme, excessive, and grossly disproportionate” to Stone’s crimes.
“The Department was shocked to see the sentencing recommendation in the filing in the Stone case last night,” the DOJ official reportedly told Fox. “The sentencing recommendation was not what had been briefed to the Department.”
The report from Fox News suggested that DOJ was in the process of rescinding the rogue prosecutors’ recommendation.
Sources told The Federalist that Timothy Shea, who was recently appointed to take over as the top federal prosecutor in D.C. earlier this month, was bullied into agreeing to the sentence recommendation by Adam Jed and Aaron Zelinsky, who were originally tapped by Mueller to investigate whether Donald Trump treasonously colluded with the Russian government to steal the 2016 election from Hillary Clinton. A full investigative report released by Mueller last year revealed that the Mueller investigation found zero evidence for any of the claims of collusion between Trump and the Russians. According to a separate report on serial abuses committed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) during its investigation of Trump, the DOJ inspector general found that the government knew long before Mueller was even appointed that there was no evidence of any collusion.
Shea’s acquiescence to the demand by the disgruntled former Mueller operatives raised questions about whether Shea was operationally in control of the D.C. prosecutor’s office, or whether he had effectively outsourced major decisions in high-profile cases to Mueller’s former deputies.
Stone, a flamboyant and bombastic 67-year-old political operator who briefly moved within the Trump campaign’s orbit in 2016, was convicted last November of lying to Congress, witness tampering, and obstruction. On Monday, the Mueller prosecutors who tried Stone’s case shocked legal experts by recommending that Stone be imprisoned for seven to nine years for non-violent offenses. In their sentencing memo, Zelinsky and Zed claimed that alleged threats made by Stone against former associate Randy Credico necessitated the lengthy prison sentence.
Credico, however, told the court that he never felt threatened by Stone, whom he characterized as “[a]ll bark and no bite[.]”
“I never in any way felt that Stone himself posed a direct physical threat to me,” Credico said.
Stone’s sentencing recommendation isn’t the first to raise eyebrows. In January, the prosecutors overseeing the case against former White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn also abruptly changed their sentencing recommendation for him from parole to potential time in prison. That sentencing recommendation was filed just one day after former D.C. U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu was nominated by Trump for a position outside DOJ. The name of Brandon Van Grack, the former Mueller prosecutor who wrote that particular sentencing memorandum, was conspicuously missing from the most recent government filings in the Flynn case, raising questions about whether he was still allowed to work on the case. Flynn is currently in the process of trying to withdraw his guilty plea of lying to the FBI.
Shea, Criminal Division Chief Thomas Martin, and a press contact for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in D.C. did not respond to requests for comment prior to publication of this article.
UPDATE: Aaron Zelinsky, the former Mueller operative behind the “grossly disproportionate” sentencing recommendation against Stone, filed notice in federal court on Tuesday afternoon that he was withdrawing from the Stone case and resigning from the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s office effective immediately. Aaron Zed, another disgruntled former Mueller operative, also resigned on Tuesday, as did Jonathan Kravis, an assistant prosecutor in the D.C. office. Michael Marando, the fourth and final prosecutor involved in the “egregious” Stone sentencing scheme, withdrew as counsel on the case early Tuesday evening but did not resign.
DOJ has not announced whether it will seek legal or ethical sanctions against any of the attorneys who allegedly lied to DOJ about their rogue sentencing scheme against Roger Stone. In a filing submitted late Tuesday evening, DOJ said the original sentencing memorandum did not reflect the position of the U.S. government and that a nearly decade-long sentence for a non-violent first-time criminal would be inappropriate.