Why It Matters

Published: February 24, 2020

By Jim Lichtman
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Last Thursday, Judge Amy Berman Jackson handed down her sentence to President Trump’s long time friend and campaign associate, Roger Stone. However, before that sentence was read, Stone, his defense team and Justice prosecutors listened to words not only directed to those in the courtroom, but the American people… ALL Americans.

Key passages are worth repeating.

drawing: Bill Hennessy/CNN

”The defendant isn’t public enemy No. 1 but he’s not a victim either… [it’s] hard to overstate the number of lies, the amount of fraud and the extraordinary amount of money involved,” Jackson said.

“At trial, the defense appropriately questioned [Stone’s “friend” and trial witness] Randy Credico’s credibility and [former campaign aide] Rick Gates’s credibility, but it was largely Stone’s own emails and his own texts that proved the allegations beyond a reasonable doubt. So what did the defense say to the jury on his behalf? So what?

So what?

“Of all the circumstances in this case, that may be the most pernicious.

“The truth still exists. The truth still matters. Roger Stone’s insistence that it doesn’t, his belligerence, his pride in his own lies are a threat to our most fundamental institutions, to the very foundation of our democracy. And if it goes unpunished, it will not be a victory for one party or another. Everyone loses because everyone depends on the representatives they elect to make the right decisions on a myriad of issues – many of which are politically charged but many of which aren’t – based on the facts.

“Everyone depends on our elected representatives to protect our elections from foreign interference based on the facts. No one knows where the threat is going to come from next time or whose side they’re going to be on, and for that reason the dismay and disgust at the defendant’s belligerence should transcend party.

“The dismay and the disgust at the attempts by others to defend his actions as just business as usual in our polarized climate should transcend party. The dismay and the disgust with any attempts to interfere with the efforts of prosecutors and members of the judiciary to fulfill their duty should transcend party.

“This case also exemplifies why it is that this system, for good reason, demands that the responsibility falls to someone neutral.

“Someone whose job may involve issuing opinions in favor of and against the same administration in the same week, and not someone who has a longstanding friendship with the defendant. Not someone whose political career was aided by the defendant. And surely not someone who has personal involvement in the events underlying the case. The court cannot be influenced by those comments. They were entirely inappropriate, but I will not hold them against the defendant either.

“It would be equally improper to be buffeted by the winds blowing from the left, the enthusiastic callers who object to what the defendant stands for. I cannot and will not sentence him for the behavior of those he supports. Sentencing is personal, and it’s based on the evidence.

“The only people who think this is easy are the ones who don’t have to make the decision. Many people weighed in, formally through letters, informally by calling chambers, pontificating on cable TV, and in blogs, op-eds, and tweets.

“I have received letters urging me not to silence an important voice in the public arena, but that will not be an element of this sentence in any way. I expect he will keep talking. And as you’ve just heard when I went through the elements of the offense, he was not convicted and is not being sentenced for exercising his First Amendment rights, his support of the President’s campaign or his policies.

“He was not prosecuted, as some have complained, for standing up for the President. He was prosecuted for covering up for the President.

“Sure, the defense is free to say: So what? Who cares?

“But, I’ll say this: Congress cared; The United States Department of Justice and the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia that prosecuted the case and is still prosecuting the case, cared; the jurors who served with integrity under difficult circumstances cared; the American people cared; and I care.”

Why does the Stone case matter? Because truth matters; because the rule of law matters; because accountability matters. It’s what the Founders and thousands of others sacrificed their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor for. We can do no less.


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