Roger Stone Judge Scolds Trump, Allies Over Claims of Jury Bias

Erik Larson
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Roger Stone Judge Scolds Trump, Allies Over Claims of Jury Bias

(Bloomberg) -- Three of the jurors who convicted Republican operative Roger Stone for lying to Congress and witness tampering testified that political bias played no role in their decision, pushing back against Stone’s contention that he deserves a new trial.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson did not issue a ruling at the end of a Tuesday hearing on Stone’s request. But the judge said a juror’s social media posts criticizing President Donald Trump did not necessarily mean she was biased against Stone, who was convicted in November and sentenced last week to three years and four months in prison.

At the beginning of the hearing in Washington, the judge sharply criticized the president and “false” news reports for promoting claims of bias she said could endanger jurors. “The risk of harassment and intimidation of any juror who may testify in the hearing later today is extremely high,” Jackson said, adding that “the jury has even been publicly criticized by the President of the United States.”

The notion that Stone’s trial was tainted by left-leaning jury members, particularly the foreperson, has been promoted aggressively by Trump and right-wing media in recent days. The president, who has also hinted he may pardon his longtime ally, tweeted further on the issue Tuesday.

At the beginning of the hearing, Jackson specifically criticized Fox News’ Tucker Carlson for falsely claiming an Obama administration official was placed on Stone’s jury and that another juror was married to a “Deep State” bureaucrat. The judge also noted that Carlson had accused the foreperson of being an “anti-Trump zealot” and broadcast her Twitter handle during his program.

Jackson allowed Stone’s lawyer, Seth Ginsberg, to question the foreperson and two other jurors in the case. Ginsberg said the foreperson lied on her jury questionnaire when she denied having opinions on federal law enforcement agencies or Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election. The charges against Stone stem from testimony he gave a congressional committee also probing Russian meddling.

Ginsberg said the foreperson had written Facebook posts supportive of the Mueller investigation and had also retweeted a CNN contributor who criticized Stone’s supporters for complaining about his arrest while remaining silent on police shootings of African Americans.

If such views had been known, Ginsberg said, the foreperson would have been excused from the jury.

Read More: Roger Stone Gets Over Three Years in Jail for Trump Cover-Up

Ginsberg questioned the foreperson about social media posts dating back to 2017 in which she criticized Trump policies. In one post, she suggested Trump supporters wanted to keep people of color out of the U.S.

But Jackson told Ginsberg he was making an assumption that the juror was biased against Stone based on her more general views on issues like immigration or racism. “Having an opinion about Trump’s policies doesn’t mean she can’t fairly and impartially judge the evidence on Roger Stone,” the judge said.

Two other jurors testified that the foreperson did not pressure anyone to give a particular verdict and conducted the deliberations in an impartial manner. One of the jurors said the foreperson even pressed the panel to consider one of the charges more carefully after they were ready to give a guilty verdict.

The foreperson has been widely attacked online for tweeting support for four prosecutors who resigned from the case when their tough sentencing recommendation for Stone was revised downward by senior Justice Department officials. Jackson said at the beginning of the hearing that the juror had done nothing wrong by stating her opinion.

One of the four prosecutors, Michael Marando, appeared at the hearing Tuesday to answer Jackson’s questions about the jury selection process. The judge also asked one of the prosecutors why they hadn’t Googled the potential Stone jurors.

Googling Jurors

“I think it’s a regular practice for lawyers these days to Google potential jurors, isn’t it?” the judge asked. The prosecutor replied that it “just didn’t happen” and suggested it might have been a “cost and strategy” issue.

Jackson, an Obama appointee, hasn’t been receptive to Stone’s earlier allegations of bias. A previous request for a new trial -- based on claims that a different juror was biased -- was denied on Feb. 5. Over the weekend, she rejected his claim that she herself was biased and denied his request to argue his latest motion before another judge.

She expressed a measure of skepticism about his latest request on Tuesday, noting that his filing was somewhat hyperbolic.

“Like the motion for recusal, it’s marked by a tone that I haven’t seen previously in pleadings in this case and was particularly reliant on adjectives,” Jackson said.

(Adds detail from hearing)

To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Larson in New York at elarson4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: David Glovin at dglovin@bloomberg.net, Anthony Lin

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