WASHINGTON — All four U.S. government prosecutors who backed a long prison stay for Roger Stone, an ally of the president, resigned from the case, a stunning rebuke after the Justice Department cut its recommended sentence by more than half.
In court filings to the judge who will sentence Stone, the four prosecutors announced their withdrawal from the team that won a conviction of Stone for lying to Congress, obstruction of justice and witness tampering. Aaron Zelinsky, Adam Jed and Michael Marando quit the case, and Jonathan Kravis quit his job as an assistant U.S. attorney.
The resignations came as the Justice Department reduced its calculation of the amount of time Stone should serve in prison — from a range of seven to nine years, to a range of three to four years.
The prosecutors left the case just hours after the Justice Department signaled it was rethinking its original recommendation. Hours earlier, President Donald Trump had criticized the request for seven to nine years.
“The idea of our president interfering with the criminal justice system in such a way is extraordinary and frightening,” said Sharon McCarthy, a former Manhattan federal prosecutor now in private practice. The lawyers are “absolutely doing the right thing,” she said.
Stone is due to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington on Feb. 20. Judges have leeway in deciding on a sentence and need not follow the Justice Department recommendations.
On Monday, the government said in a sentencing memorandum that Stone deserved a tough prison term for his crimes because he posted an image of the judge overseeing his case with crosshairs next to her head. He also violated a court order by repeatedly posting about the case on social media.
But on Tuesday, the Justice Department said in a new filing that the earlier recommendation “does not accurately reflect” its position “on what would be a reasonable sentence.” While Stone’s crimes warrant jail time, they said the suggested term of seven to nine years “could be considered excessive and unwarranted.”
Prosecutors said an appropriate sentence would be from 37 to 46 months behind bars. The brief was signed by John Crabb Jr., the acting chief of the criminal division in the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington.