WASHINGTON – U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson denied Roger Stone’s motion to disqualify her, saying the move was merely an attempt to generate public interest in the case.
“If parties could move to disqualify every judge who furrows his brow at one side or the other before ruling, the entire court system would come to a standstill,” Jackson said. “At bottom, given the absence of any factual or legal support for the motion for disqualification, the pleading appears to be nothing more than an attempt to use the Court’s docket to disseminate a statement for public consumption that has the words ‘judge’ and ‘biased’ in it.”
Stone, whom Jackson sentenced to a little over three years in prison, sought to have the judge removed from the case because of what she said about jurors during Stone’s sentencing hearing last week. The judge scheduled a hearing Tuesday on his request for a new trial.
Stone, a longtime friend and ally of President Donald Trump, was convicted of lying to the House Intelligence Committee and obstructing its investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential race. He was also found guilty of urging a potential congressional witness to also lie.
In a long statement before she announced Stone's sentence, Jackson said jurors "served with integrity" – a comment that defense attorneys say "undermines the appearance of impartiality."
Jackson's statement is "premature" because of the pending motion for a new trial that questions the integrity of one juror, Stone's attorneys argued in a seven-page filing Friday, adding that the judge's "ardent conclusion" shows an inability to reserve judgment on an issue she has not yet heard.
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But in a six-page ruling Sunday evening, Jackson said her characterization "was entirely and fairly based" on her observations of the jurors through nine days of jury selection and trial. She said the jurors were "punctual and attentive" and engaged in "thoughtful communications" with her during their deliberations.
The judge said she has been fair to Stone since he was indicted in January 2019, taking issues his attorneys raised "seriously," ruling "with care and impartiality," explaining her reasoning in detail, and scrupulously ensuring his right to a fair trial. During jury selection, Jackson said she struck 58 potential jurors for cause, in part in response to Stone's attorneys motions.
Stone was allowed to remain out on bond "even after he took to social media to intimidate the Court, after he violated conditions imposed by the Court," Jackson said, referring to a gag order preventing Stone from speaking publicly about the case, "after he was convicted at trial, and after he was sentenced to a term of incarceration."
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Jackson sentenced the 67-year-old GOP operative to three years and four months in prison, followed by two years of probation. She also ordered Stone to pay $20,000 in fines. The punishment is likely to fuel speculation that Trump, who has publicly inserted himself into the case, would pardon Stone.
Jackson, who was nominated by President Barack Obama, has been the target of attacks from Trump and his supporters who argued that she is biased against Stone.
Stone asked for a new trial this month, a day after Trump accused one of the jurors of "significant bias." In a tweet days before Stone was sentenced, Trump attacked Tomeka Hart, who had identified herself as the jury's forewoman in a Facebook post. Hart, a former school board member in Memphis who ran unsuccessfully in the Democratic primary for Tennessee's 9th Congressional District, defended four career prosecutors who handled Stone's case.
The prosecutors withdrew from Stone's case after the Justice Department overruled the sentence recommendation of seven to nine years in prison. One resigned. The Justice Department's actions came hours after Trump criticized the recommended sentence, raising concerns among prosecutors, former prosecutors and judges about political meddling in the Justice Department.
Stone's attorneys had previously asked for a new trial based on alleged bias of another juror. Jackson denied the request.
Contributing: Kevin Johnson
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Roger Stone wants Judge Amy Berman Jackson removed from his case