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Justice Department does not oppose Roger Stone’s request to stay out of prison until Sept. 3

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Roger Stone has asked to stay out of prison until Sept. 3 while he appeals his November conviction for lying and witness tampering in a congressional investigation, citing the serious risks posed by the coronavirus pandemic to people with his medical conditions and age.

Stone, 67, is set to go to prison June 30 but asked a federal judge Tuesday for a two-month extension in reporting for his sentence. U.S. prosecutors did not oppose the request and have taken similar stances for other defendants at higher risk of illness from the novel coronavirus.

The longtime GOP operative and friend of President Trump had been expected to seek a stay of his 40-month prison sentence since he appealed his case in April to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

“Roger J. Stone, Jr. respectfully moves the Court for an Order extending his surrender date to the custody of the Bureau of Prisons from June 30, 2020, to September 3, 2020, in light of his heightened risk of serious medical consequences from exposure to the COVID-19 virus in the close confines of a BOP facility,” Stone attorneys Seth Ginsberg and Grant J. Smith wrote in a motion to U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the District. They asked the judge to file a letter from Stone’s doctor under seal detailing his medical conditions.

Stone’s attorneys said they were told by prosecutors that they did not oppose a 60-day extension based on Justice Department guidance on the handling of voluntary surrender dates during the pandemic. Legal analysts said it is not uncommon for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District to agree to delaying a defendant’s sentence, especially for inmates considered at higher risk for the virus, which could include Stone because of his age.

“Challenges of the covid-19 pandemic in prisons, combined with a desire to respect the appellate process, can often lead the Justice Department in close cases to not oppose a motion,” said Douglas A. Berman, an expert on criminal sentencing at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law.

Berman said the handling of Stone’s case has been “so peculiar” that any accommodation or penalty for the defendant would fuel partisan attacks by one side or the other, and reasonably so, given its political context. Still, he said prosecutors and judges have treated other older defendants the same way.

The longtime Trump adviser’s request to push back his reporting date came the day before a federal prosecutor was expected to testify before House lawmakers that top Justice Department officials pressured government lawyers to cut Stone “a break” in his sentencing.

Late Tuesday, Jackson ordered prosecutors to state in writing their reasons for not opposing Stone’s bid and to report the status of coronavirus test results at the Jesup, Ga., federal prison where Stone is assigned.

Briefing for Stone’s appeal is expected to continue into October, making any decision unlikely before the presidential election. Trump has also strongly suggested that he will pardon Stone.

Stone has been out on bail since Jackson sentenced him in February and denied his request for a new trial in mid-April.

Stone was convicted by a federal jury in Washington of lying during his September 2017 testimony to the House Intelligence Committee to conceal his central role in the 2016 Trump campaign’s efforts to learn about Democratic computer files hacked by Russia and made public by WikiLeaks to damage Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Prosecutors quit amid escalating Justice Dept. fight over Roger Stone’s prison term

Stone, the last defendant charged in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, was sentenced to three years and four months in prison. He lost his motion in district court for a retrial April 16.

Before Stone’s sentencing, Attorney General William P. Barr and senior Justice Department officials intervened to recommend a lower sentence for the longtime Trump ally, prompting all four front-line prosecutors to quit the case and 2,600 former prosecutors to call for Barr to resign.

Barr’s move last month to drop the case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn — despite his guilty plea — raised similar allegations. Former federal prosecutors said the department undercut the work of career employees to protect the president’s friends, abdicating its commitment to equal justice under the law.

Trump again attacks Roger Stone juror, questions judge’s integrity in tweet while hearing is underway

Still, Trump has turned to Twitter to support Stone at several points, attacking prosecutors and the judge in his case even in the midst of court proceedings. After Jackson’s April ruling, he wrote, “This is a disgraceful situation!”

On June 2, Trump suggested that Stone would not serve long in prison, if at all, tweeting, “No. Roger was a victim of a corrupt and illegal Witch Hunt, one which will go down as the greatest political crime in history. He can sleep well at night!”

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