4 Prosecutors Withdraw From Roger Stone Case After DOJ Disputes ‘Excessive’ Sentencing Guideline

By Janita Kan
Janita Kan
Janita Kan
Janita Kan is a reporter based in New York covering the Justice Department, courts, and First Amendment.
February 11, 2020Updated: February 11, 2020

Four prosecutors from the Justice Department (DOJ) have withdrawn from their roles in the Roger Stone case, following the department’s decision to reduce the amount of prison time they are recommending for the Trump associate.

Prosecutors Aaron Zelinsky (pdf), Jonathan Kravis (pdf), Adam C. Jed (pdf), and Michael Marando (pdf) filed notices withdrawing from the case on Feb. 11. The move follows the department’s decision to override the sentencing recommendation of seven to nine years made by the federal prosecutors.

Along with withdrawing from the case, Kravis also will resign from his position as an assistant U.S. attorney. Zelinsky and Jed previously worked on former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

Stone, 67, is one of several of President Donald Trump’s associates who faced charges as a result of Mueller’s investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. He was convicted in November 2019 on all seven counts he was charged with, including obstruction, witness tampering, and making false statements to Congress.

The charges were related to allegations that Stone had made false statements to the House Intelligence Committee during its probe of alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election and attempted to persuade a witness to give false testimony and withhold pertinent information from investigators.

On Feb. 10, the department filed a sentencing memorandum that recommended that the court consider a sentence of 87 to 108 months, or seven to nine years (pdf). The prosecutors said the lengthy sentence would “send the message that tampering with a witness, obstructing justice, and lying in the context of a congressional investigation on matters of critical national importance are not crimes to be taken lightly.”

Then, in a reversal on Feb. 11, the department said it would reduce the prison term it’s seeking. A senior DOJ official reportedly told CBS News’ Catherine Herridge that the department was shocked to see the sentencing recommendation and that it isn’t what the department was briefed on.

The DOJ’s statement came hours after Trump weighed in on Twitter about the sentencing recommendations from the federal prosecutors, saying that “this is a horrible and very unfair situation.”

“The real crimes were on the other side, as nothing happens to them. Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice,” the president wrote.

Justice Department’s spokeswoman Kerri Kupec told media outlets that the DOJ didn’t consult with the White House about Stone’s sentencing. She added that the decision to change the sentencing request was made before the president wrote on Twitter about it.

On Feb. 11, the DOJ filed a revised sentencing memorandum (pdf) that didn’t offer any prison term recommendations for Stone, but argued that the previous recommendation of seven to nine years “could be considered excessive and unwarranted.”

“The government respectfully submits that a sentence of incarceration far less than 87 to 108 months’ imprisonment would be reasonable under the circumstances,” the department wrote. “The government ultimately defers to the Court as to the specific sentence to be imposed.”

Stone is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson on Feb. 20.

Katabella Roberts and Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.