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story.lead_photo.caption Roger Stone arrives for his sentencing at federal court in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020. Roger Stone, a staunch ally of President Donald Trump, faces sentencing on his convictions for witness tampering and lying to Congress. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

WASHINGTON -- Roger Stone was sentenced Thursday to more than three years in prison for obstructing a congressional inquiry in a bid to protect the president.

"This is not campaign hijinks. This was not Roger being Roger. You lied to Congress," Judge Amy Berman Jackson told Stone. "The dismay and disgust ... at the defendant's actions in our polarized climate should transcend [political] parties."

She sentenced Stone to 40 months in prison, plus two years' probation and a $20,000 fine.

Soon after Jackson pronounced sentence, President Donald Trump publicly decried Stone's conviction as unfair and prominent Republican legislators were giving tacit support for a pardon. But Trump said he wasn't ready to act just yet.

[Video not showing up above? Click here to watch » https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QBU3RsqF2NI]

"I want the process to play out. I think that's the best thing to do because I would love to see Roger exonerated," he said.

Democratic House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff of California tweeted after the sentencing that "to pardon Stone when his crimes were committed to protect Trump would be a breathtaking act of corruption."

But Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., signaled early support for such a move, tweeting that Trump has "all the legal authority in the world" to pardon Stone if he chooses.

Stone, 67, was convicted in November on all seven counts of an indictment that accused him of lying to Congress, tampering with a witness and obstructing the House investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to tip the 2016 election.

He was the sixth Trump aide or adviser to be convicted on charges brought as part of former special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into possible Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Stone, a longtime friend of Trump's, remained largely expressionless throughout Thursday's proceedings. As he left the Washington, D.C., courthouse and got into a black SUV without speaking to reporters, crowds of protesters engaged in dueling chants of "Pardon Roger Stone!" and "Lock him up!"

His attorney Bruce Rogow said Stone and his team would have no comment.

In a last-ditch effort to delay the sentencing, Stone's lawyers moved for a new trial on the basis of juror misconduct -- a claim that Trump highlighted in one of his tweets.

Gallery: Roger Stone sentenced to over three years in prison

[Gallery not loading above? Click here for more photos » arkansasonline.com/221stone/]

Trump has repeated claims that the jury forewoman in Stone's case was "totally tainted" and an "anti-Trump activist," which he said should compel the judge to order a new trial.

The forewoman was a Democrat who once ran for Congress, which was disclosed at the time of jury selection, but Trump and other allies of Stone argue that she was biased. The Justice Department opposes a new trial in a position approved by Barr.

Jackson said she would review the motion and the government's response and would schedule a hearing if necessary. She refused to put off Stone's sentencing while those efforts were underway, but would delay execution of his sentence.

BARR HUBBUB

His sentencing played out amid an upheaval at the Justice Department set off by Attorney General William Barr overruling prosecutors on the case who had asked for a seven- to nine-year sentence. Barr said that was too harsh. The reversal led all four prosecutors to withdraw from the case. One resigned from the Justice Department entirely.

Jackson, in her sentencing, said Stone's efforts to thwart a legitimate congressional inquiry of national importance were "a threat to our most fundamental institutions, to the very foundation of our democracy."

Stone's lawyers were expected to appeal.

John Crabb, a prosecutor in the U.S. attorney's office in Washington, apologized during the sentencing hearing for "the confusion" over the government's sentencing position and stressed that the prosecutors who quit from the case were not to be blamed for it.

He said that department policy is to follow the sentencing guidelines in recommending punishment, and those prosecutors did so. He also said the department continued to believe that aggravating factors in the case had boosted the penalty recommended under the guidelines for Stone fivefold. "The Department of Justice and the United States attorney's office is committed to enforcing the law without fear, favor or political influence," he said.

He said Stone's offenses were serious and worthy of a "substantial period of incarceration" but left it up to the judge to decide the right punishment. He blamed the competing sentencing memorandums on "miscommunication" between Timothy Shea, the interim U.S. attorney, and his superiors at Justice Department headquarters.

Jackson questioned him about the process, asking him point-blank about the last-minute switch in the prosecution team. "Is there anything you would like to say about why you are standing there today?" she demanded.

Crabb deflected some of her questions, saying, "I apologize I cannot engage in discussions of internal deliberations."

Former and current government lawyers accused Barr of failing to protect the department from improper political influence from the White House. In an open letter, more than 2,000 former Justice Department employees have called for Barr to resign, claiming "interference in the fair administration of justice" by both the attorney general and the president.

In a television interview Feb. 13, Barr said he had decided to recommend a more lenient punishment for Stone based on the merits of the case. He also asked the president to stop publicly opining about the department's criminal cases, saying it was making his job "impossible."

In their initial sentencing memorandum, federal prosecutors said that Stone deserved a stiff sentence because he threatened a witness with bodily harm, deceived congressional investigators and carried out an extensive, deliberate, illegal scheme that included repeatedly lying under oath and forging documents.

Even after he was charged in a felony indictment, prosecutors said, Stone continued to try to manipulate the administration of justice by threatening Jackson in a social media post and violating her gag orders. Those and other factors justified a stiff sentence under advisory federal guidelines, they said.

The witness, a New York radio host named Randy Credico, ultimately invoked his Fifth Amendment rights rather than testify before the House Intelligence Committee, although he later was interviewed by the FBI and appeared before a federal grand jury.

In a letter submitted to the judge on Stone's behalf, Credico undercut the prosecutors' argument, saying he never feared that Stone himself would harm him. But during the trial, he testified that he feared that Stone, a well-known political commentator, could create havoc in his life if he did not bend to his wishes, and prosecutors said he feared that Stone could stir others to violence.

In their second sentencing memo, prosecutors said, "Ultimately, the government defers to the court as to what specific sentence is appropriate under the facts and circumstances of this case."

TRUMP: COMEY LIED, TOO

Stone has known and advised Trump for years. Trump has attacked prosecutors, the jury forewoman and the federal judge overseeing the trial, casting his former campaign adviser as the victim of a vendetta by law enforcement.

"A lot of bad things are happening," Trump said of law enforcement leaders at a Las Vegas event for former convicts reentering society. "We are cleaning it out. We are cleaning the swamp. We are draining the swamp. I just never knew how deep the swamp was."

"We have a lot of dirty cops. FBI is phenomenal. I love the people in the FBI. But the people at the top were dirty cops."

He complained that the Justice Department prosecuted Stone for lying and obstructing a congressional inquiry, but did not charge his enemies like Hillary Clinton, former FBI Director James Comey, Comey's onetime deputy Andrew G. McCabe, and former FBI officials Lisa Page and Peter Strzok.

"What happened to him is unbelievable," Trump said of Stone. "They say that he lied. But other people lied, too. Just to mention, Comey lied. McCabe lied. Lisa Page lied. Her lover, Strzok, Peter Strzok, lied. You don't know who these people are; just trust me, they all lied."

He went on to revive the email case involving Clinton, his 2016 Democratic opponent. "Hillary Clinton leaked more classified documents than any human being, I believe, in the history of the United States," he said. But, he added, "nothing happened to her."

Clinton was not accused of leaking classified documents. She was faulted for using a private computer server that was not as secure as a government server to send emails, some of which were later found to include classified information.

Comey, then the FBI director, faulted her for carelessness but said no prosecutor would charge a crime on those facts.

Information for this article was contributed by Sharon LaFraniere and Peter Baker of The New York Times; by Timothy Bella of The Washington Post; and by Ashraf Khalil, Mark Sherman, Michael Balsamo and Jill Colvin of The Associated Press.

Roger Stone leaves federal court Thursday in Washington after his sentence was handed down. He was the sixth aide or adviser to President Donald Trump to be convicted on charges arising from former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible Russian interference in the 2016 election. More photos at arkansasonline.com/221stone/. (AP/Alex Brandon)

A Section on 02/21/2020

Print Headline: Stone's sentence: 40 months

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