The Justice Department is preparing to change its sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone after top brass were “shocked” at the stiff prison term initially being sought, according to a senior DOJ official.
Federal prosecutors had recommended that Judge Amy Berman Jackson sentence Stone to between 87 and 108 months in prison for his conviction on seven counts of obstruction, witness tampering, and making false statements to Congress on charges that stemmed from former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
“The Department was shocked to see the sentencing recommendation in the filing in the Stone case last night,” the official told Fox News. “The sentencing recommendation was not what had been briefed to the Department.”
The department is now expected to scale that back.
“The Department finds seven to nine years extreme, excessive and grossly disproportionate to Mr. Stone’s offenses,” the source told Fox News, adding that the DOJ will clarify its position on sentencing later Tuesday.
President Trump tweeted about the sentencing recommendation early Tuesday morning, leading to speculation that a pardon may be in Stone’s future.
“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!” Trump said.
The decision to alter the sentencing recommendation was made before that tweet, said Kerri Kupec, the director of DOJ’s Office of Public Affairs. Kupec said the DOJ has had no contact with the White House regarding the sentencing recommendation.
There has been speculation of a presidential pardon for Stone, based on Trump’s public statements on the matter and the close relationship between the two men.
In the wake of the news that the DOJ will revise the sentencing recommendation, at least three prosecutors withdrew from the case.
The government informed the court Tuesday that Aaron Zelinsky, one of the prosecutors on Mueller’s team, intends to withdraw from the case and said Zelinsky has resigned “as a Special Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Columbia.” However, Fox News is told by the Baltimore US Attorney’s Office that Zelinsky has not resigned entirely from the Department of Justice and will be returning to his former role as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Baltimore.
Jonathan Kravis, an Assistant US Attorney in the US Attorney’s Office for Washington D.C., also filed a document informing the judge that he has “resigned as an Assistant United States Attorney and therefore no longer represents the government” in the Stone case.
And on Tuesday afternoon, prosecutor Adam Jed also withdrew from the case, Fox News has learned.
Federal prosecutors argued that Stone intentionally lied about his use of intermediaries to get information about WikiLeaks’ possession and release of hacked Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign emails. They also said Stone hid the truth to protect the Trump campaign.
Stone’s defense, however, maintained that Stone did not have an actual inside connection with WikiLeaks. They also argued that there was reasonable doubt that Stone lied to congressional lawmakers.
Stone’s sentencing is currently scheduled for Feb. 20. Judge Jackson released the boisterous political operative on his own recognizance after his conviction but kept the gag order she imposed on him earlier this year, and stated that he was still bound by that order as a condition of his release.