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Letter writer William Cooper defends William Barr and Roger Stone in honor of rational justice systems. 

All criminal defendants are entitled to the basic protections of criminal procedure and due process and should not be subject to excessive punishment. 

This includes Roger Stone.

In February, the Department of Justice (DOJ) withdrew its nine-year sentencing recommendation for Stone after President Donald Trump criticized it in a tweet. This created quite a stir in Washington and the media, with many outraged by the DOJ's intervention. 

Yesterday, during Attorney General William Barr’s visit to the House Judiciary Committee, it was clear Democrats are still rankled. In response to accusations of favoritism toward a Trump associate, Barr explained why he lowered the recommendation. “The line prosecutors were trying to advocate for a sentence that was more than twice what anyone else in a similar position had ever served, and this is a 67-year-old man, first-time offender and no violence," he said. “I agree the president’s friends don’t deserve special breaks, but they also don’t deserve to be treated more harshly than other people.” 

Exactly. Equal justice requires that all people — whether Trump friend or foe — are treated the same under the law.

Indeed, Mr. Stone is a 67-year-old man who might not survive nine years in prison. The prosecutors' recommended sentence is thus the rough equivalent of seeking the death penalty. The investigation into Russia that led to Mr. Stone’s prosecution was started under problematic conditions that included law enforcement officials making material misrepresentations to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. After a yearslong investigation into Mr. Stone by the Mueller team, none of the allegations that he colluded with Russia proved to be true. 

After investigators determined Mr. Stone did not commit any of the alleged underlying crimes, but instead may have obstructed legal proceedings and tampered with a witness, a large team of armed law enforcement officials went to Mr. Stone’s house — along with CNN cameras — and arrested him and took him to jail. One of the lead prosecutors involved in the investigation is Andrew Weissmann, an open Hillary Clinton supporter in 2016 who is now an MSNBC analyst and harsh critic of the Trump administration. 

Mr. Stone was eventually convicted of committing these crimes — seven counts in all. It was the first time he was ever convicted for violating the law.

This background is brushed aside by those incensed — still — that Barr would withdraw the sentencing recommendation after Trump’s tweets. 

Yes — as Barr has correctly explained — Trump should abstain from interfering with or publicly weighing in regarding the particulars of any criminal case, including this one. And this is important. But the Justice Department changing the nine-year sentencing recommendation — under these background circumstances — is a humane approach to law enforcement. Notwithstanding Trump’s improper tweets (and the long-lasting anger of Barr's critics), it was the right thing to do. 

The judge, who later sentenced Stone to just over three years, agrees.

William Cooper is an attorney and columnist who has written for publications including The Wall Street Journal, Baltimore Sun, New York Daily News, St. Louis Post-Dispatch and USA Today. 

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(4) comments

Daniel Bell

I agree as stated "all criminal defendants are entitled to the basic protections of criminal procedure and due process and should not be subject to excessive punishment." However, We The People are also entitled to basic protections from those who have clearly broken the law, and it is our right not tolerate executive favoritism.

To illustrate the point, I reference two major flaws with your argument:

1) He wouldn't have served the full 9 years. He likely would have served less than half of that in the cushiest country club of a prison that money can buy. You know that, everyone know that, and to pretend otherwise while whining about an unfair investigation and arrest is an assault on our intelligence.

2) His sentence was reduced, right or wrong, yet thanks to his friend and fellow professional martyr in the WH he's a free man. We've gone from "would have been a death sentence" to no punishment at all. Does the judge who sentenced him agree with that, too? (answer: no) What did the judge think about the installation of friendly prosecutors? Isn't there a Latin term for picking only the few details that support your argument while disregarding all of the details that negate it? For an attorney to leave out these details is somewhat alarming. Would that behavior from an attorney be acceptable in a courtroom? I hope not, but it does seem to happen, such as in Stone's case.

So yes, I agree, Stone should be treated fairly. That means "the same as everyone else according to the law", not simply according to someone's opinion. Isn't there a Latin term for that, too? How many "first time" non-violent felons and/or people who never committed crimes anywhere near the same magnitude are currently serving sentences or still dragging a ball-and-chain on their record decades after the fact? In light of Stone's case, is that "excessive punishment"? It sure looks like it to me.

Mason Zastrow

Good points, Daniel. One more thing worth mentioning is that Stone's charge of Witness Tampering is treated by the Department of Justice as a violent crime. Looking at the specifics of the case, it seems like Stone was unlikely to actually act in a seriously harmful manner, but the DoJ and the Bureau of Prisons simply don't look that closely at individual cases when making sentencing recommendations. I agree that nine years in prison at his age is a harsh sentence when looking at the case individually, but looking at the case individually is the very privilege that is being granted because of Stone's association with the president. It is simultaneously true that Stone's sentence was unfair, and that he received special treatment.

Daniel Bell

Re: Witness tampering. I was unaware of that. But unlike the author of this letter, I'm not an attorney. Thanks for commenting.

Steve Gregg

Roger Stone is a nefarious character. You might take a look at the 2017 documentary, “Get Me Roger Stone.”

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