Roger Stone, former adviser to President Donald Trump, arrives at E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse on February 20, 2020, in Washington, D.C. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/TNS)

WASHINGTON _ Roger Stone, a self-described Republican dirty trickster and longtime ally of President Donald Trump, was sentenced to 40 months in prison Thursday for his crimes during the special counsel investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign.

U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson delayed sending Stone to prison until she hears defense motions seeking a new trial.

The politically charged case has caused turmoil in the Justice Department and in the federal judiciary, exposing a sensitive fault line between Attorney General William Barr and the president who nominated him.

Stone declined to address the court during the 2 {-hour sentencing hearing. But his defense lawyer, Seth Ginsberg, urged Jackson to be lenient, saying he had been punished enough by his arrest and trial. “The process really has been punishment enough,” he said.

Ginsberg noted that Stone is 67 and cited his charitable work and lack of a criminal record. He said Stone is “real human being” and not just “the larger-than-life political persona he plays on TV.”

Prosecutors had urged Jackson to impose a substantial prison term, although they did not say how long.

“This prosecution is and was righteous,” said John Crabb, an assistant U.S. attorney. “The defendant was found guilty by a jury of his peers of obstructing justice, lying to Congress and witness tampering. The court should impose a substantial period of incarceration.”

The four career prosecutors who won Stone’s conviction initially recommended Stone be sentenced to seven to nine years in prison, citing federal sentencing guidelines. Hours later, Trump denounced the proposed sentence on Twitter, calling it a “miscarriage of justice.”

Barr and other top Justice Department officials believed the recommended sentence was too severe and ordered prosecutors to reduce it. The attorney general said he ordered the change before Trump tweeted his displeasure about it.

Rather than follow Barr’s instructions, the four prosecutors withdrew from the case in protest; one resigned from the department. The Justice Department then filed a new motion that said Stone deserved a prison sentence but deferred to the judge on its potential length.

The president then congratulated Barr “for taking charge of a case that was totally out of control,” suggesting he had done the president’s bidding.

A day later, Barr publicly rebuked the president for his “constant background commentary,” complaining in a prime time TV interview that Trump’s tweets about ongoing prosecutions were making it “impossible” to do his job.

Trump has continued tweeted about the case, however, prompting reports that Barr was considering resigning. His spokesman has denied those reports and Barr is scheduled to testify before Congress on March 31.

The case has reverberated through the federal justice system.

More than 2,600 former federal prosecutors and other Justice Department officials signed a letter urging Barr to resign, accusing him of allowing politics to influence legal decisions. Members of the Federal Judges Assn.’s executive committee held a conference call to discuss Trump’s criticism of Jackson, and the group’s leader later expressed support for the judge.

Stone was convicted by a federal jury in November for seven felonies including lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstructing a House investigation during the probe led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Stone is the sixth Trump aide convicted of charges from Muller’s Russia investigation.

Stone, known for his outlandish stunts, went too far last year when he posted an image on social media that appeared to show a targeting gun sight next to Jackson’s head. Threatening a judge is a felony and Jackson was furious.

After Stone apologized in court, saying he thought the image was a Celtic cross, Jackson issued a gag order but did not jail him. After that, Stone remained largely quiet during his trial.

In a sealed motion, Stone’s attorneys asked the judge last week to dismiss the case. The nature of Stone’s latest complaint has not been made public, but one of his lawyers said in court Tuesday that the matter “goes to the heart of the case and is such a fundamental issue.” Stone’s lawyers wanted Jackson to delay the sentencing until she could rule on their motions for a new trial.

Trump has alleged “significant bias” from the jury forewoman, who praised the prosecutors’ integrity on Facebook after they quit the case last week.

The Justice Department opposed the defense motion to toss Stone’s conviction and delay sentencing. The judge ruled that the sentencing would proceed on schedule and she would rule later on the motion to throw out the conviction.

Stone, wearing a gray suit and light-blue tie, entered the courthouse at 9 a.m., passing protesters and a large inflatable rat. He sat quietly at the defense table as Jackson, prosecutors and defense lawyers argued over the appropriate sentence and declined to address the court when given the opportunity.

Jackson agreed with prosecutors that Stone’s obstruction of justice, witness tampering and violations of court orders merited special consideration. She noted that Stone’s efforts to stonewall congressional investigators and to convince two witnesses to not cooperate led the House to issue an “inaccurate, incorrect and incomplete report.”

She was particularly vexed by Stone’s use of social media after he was ordered to stop opining publicly on the case before his trial.

“By choosing Instagram and Twitter for his platform he multiplied his ability to stoke public opinion against prosecution and the court,” she said.

Jackson also peppered Crabb, a top assistant U.S. attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, over the withdrawal of four career prosecutors from the case.

Crabb apologized to the judge for having to take over the case. He refused to discuss the process behind his filing last week of a second sentencing memorandum that essentially withdrew the initial recommendation that Stone receive seven to nine years in prison.

“I want to state and emphasize that the original sentencing memorandum filed by the trial team was done in good faith.” he said. “Sentencing is not an exact science.”

Stone made a name for himself in Republican circles dating back to the 1970s for his loud personality and controversial claims. He still sports a large tattoo on his back or Richard Nixon, who was forced to resign from the White House during the Watergate scandal.

He later helped run a political consulting firm for years with Paul Manafort, who was Trump’s campaign chairman in mid-2016 but then was charged with tax fraud and other financial crimes unrelated to the campaign. Manafort is serving a 7 {-year prison sentence.

Before Trump jumped into the Republican primary race in 2015, Stone was one of his stalwart supporters, repeatedly urging him to run in previous election cycles. He briefly served as an adviser on the campaign.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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