The U.S. Justice Department said it no longer supports Republican operative Roger Stone’s request to delay the start of his prison term by 60 days due to the coronavirus pandemic, reversing its earlier position.
Stone, sentenced to 40 months in prison for lying to Congress during the Russia probe, has asked the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington to let him report to prison on Sept. 3 instead of July 14 — the date set by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson after she granted a shorter two-week extension.
On Thursday, the Justice Department told the appeals court it was withdrawing its earlier support for Stone’s request in deference to Jackson’s authority over the case, saying she’s properly taken into account that Stone was convicted of threatening a witness and stoking violent sentiment against jurors and the judge.
The reversal comes two days after Stone asked President Donald Trump to commute his sentence, which would allow him to remain free while he appeals his conviction.
The Justice Department said it supported Jackson’s finding that the underlying medical condition Stone cited in justifying his request was “medically controlled” and didn’t necessarily put the 67-year-old at greater risk of contracting the virus behind bars. His own doctor said that risk was speculation, the U.S. noted.
“Although the government did not oppose appellant’s 60- day extension request, the district court’s independent decision to extend appellant’s self-surrender date for 14 days is a reasonable exercise of that court’s discretion based on the totality of the factual and legal circumstances,” the U.S. said.
Stone didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
Stone, an early Trump booster, has appealed his conviction and argues the judge and jury were biased against him. He’s also alleged misconduct by biased prosecutors and sought to tie his case to that of former national security advisor Michael Flynn, whose prosecution was scrapped by the Justice Department in May even after the former Trump official pleaded guilty.
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