The federal judge who oversaw Roger Stone’s trial and sentenced him last week to 40 months in prison dismissed as a baseless smear his demand that she be taken off the case Sunday.
“Given the absence of any factual or legal support for the motion for disqualification, the pleading appears to be nothing more than an attempt to use the Court’s docket to disseminate a statement for public consumption that has the words ‘judge’ and ‘biased’ in it,” wrote U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the District of Columbia.
Stone’s motion sought to disqualify Berman Jackson for referring during Thursday’s sentencing to “the jurors who served with integrity under difficult circumstances” while he is still challenging one juror as biased.
Berman Jackson rebutted any claim that she has not treated Stone fairly. On the contrary, she wrote, she “took each issue raised by [him] seriously . . . ruled with care and impartiality . . . granted important evidentiary motions in his favor . . . and . . . repeatedly resolved bond issues in his favor, even after he took to social media to intimidate the Court, after he violated conditions imposed by the Court, after he was convicted at trial, and after he was sentenced to a term of incarceration.”
That term, she noted, was significantly less than called for under sentencing guidelines.
She also dismissed Stone’s technical argument, saying a judge’s comments could be disqualifying only if they were made outside of or based on information from outside of court. “Judges cannot be ‘biased’ and need not be disqualified if the views they express are based on what they learned while doing the job they were appointed to do,” she wrote.
Although she said her comment was “very general,” she added that it would not be disqualifying even if she had spoken specifically of the pending motion, saying, “If parties could move to disqualify every judge who furrows his brow at one side or the other before ruling, the entire court system would come to a standstill.”
Legal experts took an equally dim view of the motion before Berman Jackson’s ruling, saying it was probably designed to appeal to the president rather than the courts.
Stone’s motion regarding the juror remains sealed, but the record indicates that it is his second attempt to argue for a new trial on grounds that jurors were biased against him. Berman Jackson has already denied his first such motion, saying there was no evidence that a juror was biased merely because she was a lawyer with the IRS. Trump has repeatedly attacked the forewoman of the jury, who ran for Congress as a Democrat. The second motion, Berman Jackson said, specifically “raised questions about a juror’s written questionnaire and sworn answers during individual voir dire.”
Although the forewoman was not named at the trial, she disclosed her background, including her bid for Congress, in public pretrial jury selection. But supporters of Stone have argued that she did not disclose a history of social media posts criticizing the president.