Republican operative Roger Stone is vowing to fight federal charges, meaning he is on course for a courtroom trial whose jurors would come from an electorate hostile to his longtime friend and boss, President Trump.
U.S. District Court in Washington chooses jury pools strictly from deep-blue D.C. boundaries, a place the president calls “the swamp.”
The Constitution’s Sixth Amendment mandates an “impartial jury.” His 12 jurors would not necessarily be a jury of Mr. Stone’s peers.
Mr. Stone, 66, is a longtime conservative Republican, author and radio host openly committed to Mr. Trump. He has accused special counsel Robert Mueller of trying to turn potential jurors against him.
Washington has no elected Republican, the last GOP city council member leaving in 2009. Republicans make up just 6 percent of registered voters.
A prolific author, Mr. Stone wrote “The Clintons’ War on Women” in 2015. The book blurb offers “How Bill and Hillary Clinton systematically abused women and others — sexually, physically, and psychologically — in their scramble for power and wealth.”
“I think it’s hopeless for Roger Stone to find an impartial jury in Washington, but I’ve lost all faith in the U.S. justice system,” Michael Caputo, a longtime Stone friend and a former Trump campaign adviser, told The Washington Times. “So many leading Democrats have lied about truly serious national security issues. If only Republicans are prosecuted, where can any Republican hope to find justice?”
Sidney Powell, an appeals court attorney who has criticized Mr. Mueller’s tactics, told The Times, “It will be impossible for Stone to find an impartial jury in Washington. He should be given a change of venue to some place in the heartland of the country. Washington has become a cesspool of political corruption.”
Mr. Stone would be Mr. Mueller’s first indicted target to stand trial in Washington. The prosecutor brought a seven-count indictment against Mr. Stone for allegedly lying to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and interfering with one witness.
Mr. Stone, now banned on Twitter for a profanity-laced message to CNN, would stand trial before an urban jury in an especially partisan city where liberal activists routinely have labeled Mr. Trump a racist.
Perhaps this is why at a press conference on Jan. 31, after his first court appearance in Washington where he pleaded not guilty, Mr. Stone highlighted his civil rights record. A questioner asked about media stereotyping.
He responded: “People tend to put you in a box because I am a Republican. Let me make this point: I have been an advocate for drug law reform for 25 years. I’ve been an opponent and critic of the 1994 crime bill in which poor people and African-Americans are subject to much harsher mandatory sentences for the possession of rock cocaine than wealthy white people who are in the possession of powder cocaine. President Trump has just fixed that problem I worked for Richard Nixon It is Richard Nixon who gave us affirmative action. I’m one of the few conservatives who’s written and spoken in favor of affirmative action. I think it was necessary.”
Friday night on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show, Mr. Stone brought up the possibility of a biased jury. He charged that the FBI conducted a show-of-force raid on his home Jan. 25 — more than two dozen heavily armed agents, a dozen vehicles, boats in a canal behind his home — to influence a jury. A CNN video crew, the only one on scene, captured the pre-dawn arrest.
“That was the whole purpose of this raid was to poison a jury, to hold me up as public enemy No. 1,” he said.
A defense attorney in the Trump-Russia affair already has noted the D.C. area’s liberal bent and asked for a change of venue.
Kevin Downing, who represents former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, asked that his trial in Alexandria be moved to Roanoke, Virginia.
“Nowhere in the country is the bias against Mr. Manafort more apparent than here in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area,” he said in a motion, noting that Mrs. Clinton won 66 percent of Alexandria voters who were bombarded with negative Manafort news for months.
U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III turned down the motion. Manafort was convicted of bank and tax fraud.
Stephen A. Saltzburg, a professor at George Washington University Law School, has a long academic and criminal justice career. He was an associate independent counsel under Lawrence E. Walsh in the 1980s Iran-Contra investigation. Ronald Reagan aides, including ex-Marine Corps officer and national security aide Oliver North, were accused of illegally funding the Nicaraguan contras and a coverup.
“Sure, Roger Stone can get a fair trial in the District,” Mr. Saltzburg told The Times. “Just look back on Iran Contra. Oliver North got a fair trial. The jury refused to hold him accountable for actions that they thought were probably ordered from the White House. They only found him guilty on personal corruption charges. Juries are careful to focus on what an accused actually did, not on political associations.”
A U.S. District Court jury on May 4, 1989, convicted Mr. North on three charges of destroying documents and accepting a home security system as a gift. The D.C. jury acquitted him of nine other accusations that he misled Congress.
Craig Lerner, a professor at George Mason University Antonin Scalia School of Law and an associate independent counsel in the Whitewater affair, said there are steps the defense can take to find impartial jurors.
He notes that the Sixth Amendment requires an “impartial jury of the State and District wherein the crime shall have been committed.”
“It’s possible that the defense will argue that impartial jurors cannot be found in predominantly Democratic D.C., but the prosecution would surely respond that impartial jurors could be identified, screened through the normal selection process,” Mr. Lerner told The Times. “It should be noted that a criminal defendant can waive the right to a jury trial. If the prosecution then agrees, there would be a bench trial.”
He has been touring news channels proclaiming his innocence and criticizing Mr. Mueller’s “left-wing” prosecutors. He says he needs to speak out to fund gigantic legal fees.
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