WASHINGTON - Federal prosecutors want Roger Stone to serve seven to nine years in prison, saying the ally of President Donald Trump committed a "direct and brazen attack on the rule of law" by lying to Congress and obstructing a federal investigation.
The 67-year-old is the latest Trump ally to be convicted in cases stemming from former special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election. Imprisonment would represent a stunning downfall for Stone, a fixture in GOP politics who worked on presidential campaigns stretching back to Richard Nixon.
Stone, who's scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 20, was found guilty in November of lying to Congress and obstructing the Russia investigation to protect Trump and his presidential campaign.
His convictions stem from his actions in 2016, when he sought to create back-channel communications with WikiLeaks to find out about stolen emails that were damaging to then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and to push for their release.
Stone repeatedly lied to the House Intelligence Committee about his efforts, falsely denying that he talked to the Trump campaign about them. He also urged a possible congressional witness to either lie or scuttle his testimony. The committee at that time was investigating Russia's election interference.
Stone convicted: Roger Stone found guilty of lying to Congress to protect Trump and his campaign
"Stone chose - consciously, repeatedly, and flagrantly - to obstruct and interfere with the search for the truth on an issue of vital importance to all Americans," prosecutors wrote in sentencing memorandum filed Monday.
Prosecutors contend Stone's background and characteristics show he didn't commit these crimes out of desperation.
"He is a man of substantial means, and he has enjoyed a modicum of fame from his years of being a political advisor and confidant to powerful politicians," prosecutors wrote. "Rather, his conduct was undertaken purposefully, by someone who knew exactly what he was doing."
In a sentencing memorandum filed late Monday, Stone's attorneys argued the guideline for first-time offenders convicted of these crimes is 15 to 21 months. They asked for a lighter sentence than that.
"Roger Stone is far more than the persona he projects in the media. As those who know him well attest, he is a man devoted to his friends and family, but also someone who has repeatedly extended himself well beyond the normal range to assist virtual strangers," his attorneys wrote.
But prosecutors also cited Stone's behavior after he was indicted in January 2019.
He posted an Instagram image of U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, the judge presiding over his case, with what appeared to be crosshairs of a gun next to her head.
Stone repeatedly violated a gag order preventing him from speaking publicly about the case. Jackson later banned him from using social media.
"Stone's conduct over the past two years shows the low regard in which he holds the House Intelligence Committee's investigation and this very criminal case," prosecutors wrote. "That conduct suggests that a period of incarceration is warranted to achieve adequate deterrence."
Defense attorneys argued Stone should not be punished for his behavior after his indictment, saying his longstanding problems with anxiety were "heightened" while his case was pending.
Stone was found guilty of seven charges: one count of obstruction of an official proceeding, five counts of false statements and one count of witness tampering. The maximum penalty for all counts totals 50 years in prison, though first-time offenders generally receive significantly lower sentences.
Stone's weeklong trial in November revealed the Trump campaign's efforts to seek advance knowledge of emails that were stolen from the Democratic National Committee and published by WikiLeaks, an anti-secrecy group. Testimony showed that Stone communicated with leaders of the Trump campaign, including the candidate himself.
Jurors heard from five government witnesses and saw dozens of emails and text messages that prosecutors said proved Stone had lied. No witnesses testified for the defense. Instead, Stone's attorneys sought to poke holes in the government's case by arguing that the emails and text messages lacked any criminal context.
Jackson allowed Stone to go home as he awaits sentencing.
In a tweet early Tuesday, Trump decried Stone's prosecution as a "horrible and very unfair situation" and declared, "Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice!"
"The real crimes were on the other side, as nothing happens to them," the president wrote without further explanation or context.
This is a horrible and very unfair situation. The real crimes were on the other side, as nothing happens to them. Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice! https://t.co/rHPfYX6Vbv
- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 11, 2020
Randy Credico, a key government witness, wrote a letter asking the judge not to send Stone to prison. Credico, a New York comedian and longtime associate of Stone, testified that Stone tried to get him to lie to Congress about WikiLeaks.
Credico described Stone's efforts in the early 2000s to help change New York's draconian drug laws.
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Stone, known for his flamboyance and combativeness, "certainly rubs people the wrong way" and "shamelessly invents and promotes outlandish and invidious conspiracy tales," Credico wrote.
"But the bottom line is Mr. Stone, at his core, is an insecure person who craves and recklessly pursues attention. ... Prison is no remedy," he wrote.
Stone's defense attorneys argued that he never threatened to harm Credico, and Credico never felt threatened. Although Stone used harsh, vulgar language in emails and text messages to Credico - "prepare to die [expletive]" - that was the norm between the "eccentric men" who have known each other two decades, Stone's attorneys wrote.
Five other former Trump campaign aides and allies pleaded guilty or were convicted as a result of the Mueller investigation.
Former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to making false statements to investigators about his contacts with a Russian ambassador. But Flynn has since withdrawn his guilty plea, accusing prosecutors of forcing the former Army general to admit to crimes he didn't commit.
Prosecutors have asked that Flynn be sentenced to up to six months in prison, though in court filings Wednesday they said they're also open to probation.
Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign chairman, is serving more than seven years in prison after he was convicted of several charges, including fraud.
Michael Cohen, Trump's former personal attorney, is serving three years in prison for lying to Congress and other crimes.
Former campaign aide Rick Gates was sentenced to 45 days in jail, which he can serve intermittently over three years while he's on probation.
Former campaign adviser George Papadopoulous served a two-week sentence for lying to investigators about his contacts with Russians.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Roger Stone sentencing: Feds want 7 to 9 years for Trump ally