Judge Amy Berman Jackson To Hand Down Stone's Sentence

Feb 20, 2020
Originally published on February 20, 2020 7:09 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Roger Stone is set to be sentenced today. He's a political operative and longtime friend of President Trump who was charged as a result of the Mueller investigation. President Trump intervened in that case, trying to get Stone a more lenient sentence. Then the Justice Department revised its own sentencing recommendation. Today, it's all in the hands of federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson. NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas reports.

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: For more than 30 years, Amy Berman Jackson has worked in Washington, D.C.'s legal world. She's been a federal prosecutor, a white-collar defense attorney and now a district court judge. Those who have known her over the years say one constant is that she is not going to be surprised in the courtroom.

KARL RACINE: She will have thought, along with her team, of every potential legal and factual angle that could come up. And she'll be crystal clear as to why she is doing what she's doing.

LUCAS: That's Karl Racine. He's the attorney general for Washington, D.C. But back in the early 1990s, he worked under Jackson as a young associate at a big law firm. He says Jackson took the time as a partner in the firm to help Racine and other young attorneys fresh out of law school learn the legal ropes.

RACINE: In a private firm, every second and every minute and every hour counts. Those were billable hours. Amy would devote hours of nonbillable time to teach young lawyers how to become better lawyers.

LUCAS: She was demanding and rigorous, he says, but fair. Born in Baltimore, Jackson got her undergraduate and law degrees from Harvard. She spent a total of 15 years working on both sides of the legal fence as a federal prosecutor and then as a defense attorney before taking a five-year break from the law in the late 1990s to raise her then two young children. Over that time, she provided occasional legal commentary on television, including about the O.J. Simpson trial and the Unabomber attacks. She returned to the law in 2000 and was nominated to the federal bench by President Obama 10 years later. Lawyers who have argued cases before Jackson since then echo the words of Racine. She's demanding, rigorous and fair.

JON JACOBS: It was very clear to me from my experience that she's a very hardworking, conscientious judge, runs a well-managed courtroom.

LUCAS: That's Jon Jacobs. As a government lawyer back in 2016, Jacobs argued a complicated antitrust case before Judge Jackson involving two large health insurance companies. On top of that, Jacobs says, it was a bench trial.

JACOBS: She not only had to decide the questions of law, but also be the fact-finder. So it was a very challenging assignment. And she definitely proved herself up to the task.

LUCAS: For the past two-plus years, Jackson's challenging assignment has been presiding over various cases stemming from the Russia investigation. That includes President Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and his deputy, Rick Gates, who both pleaded guilty in front of Jackson. It also includes the president's longtime friend and informal adviser, Roger Stone, a colorful character who has brought his love for a fight to the courtroom.

Last February, Jackson imposed a limited gag order on Stone. Months later, he posted on social media a photograph of Jackson that appeared to have the crosshairs of a gun next to her face. At a court hearing about the post, Jackson, visibly annoyed, grilled Stone on the stand. What am I supposed to do with you, she said. She tightened the gag order and barred Stone from posting on social media. Stone ultimately was convicted in November of obstruction and lying to Congress. Now all eyes are on Jackson as she pronounces Stone's sentence.

Again, Karl Racine.

RACINE: Her decision is going to be transparent. It's going to be well-reasoned, and it's going to be supported by law and facts. Amy will be fair.

LUCAS: In the past week and a half, the president has called the case against Stone a miscarriage of justice. And Attorney General William Barr has overruled career prosecutors to recommend a lighter sentence for Stone. Trump also has taken aim at Jackson on Twitter in front of his 70 million followers. It is in the middle of this simmering political controversy that Judge Jackson will make her decision on Stone's prison sentence.

Ryan Lucas, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.