Two prosecutors in Roger Stone case abruptly resign after reports reveal that DOJ will seek a lighter sentence
Two Justice Department prosecutors, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron Zelinsky and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Kravis, abruptly withdrew from the case against Roger Stone and resigned on Tuesday, according to new court filings made public in the afternoon.
"The Court is advised that the undersigned attorney has resigned effective immediately after this filing as a Special Assistant United States Attorney for District of Columbia," the filing by Zelinsky said.
It was not immediately clear whether they resigned from the Justice Department entirely or just from their current positions, but they will not be working any further on the Stone case as it heads for sentencing.
A third member of the prosecutorial team, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Jed, also withdrew from the case.
The announcements followed reports earlier in the day that the Justice Department would be modifying a sentencing memo in Stone's case. In a Monday filing, which Zelinsky Kravis signed, the prosecutors recommended a sentence for Stone falling between seven and nine years, in accordance with their assessment of the federal sentencing guidelines as applied to the facts of the case.
After the sentence recommendation was announced, President Donald Trump — a longtime friend of Stone — lashed out on Twitter, saying: "This is a horrible and very unfair situation. The real crimes were on the other side, as nothing happens to them. Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice!"
And then on Tuesday, multiple outlets reported that the Justice Department planned to adjust the sentence downward, citing an anonymous official.
“That recommendation is not what had been briefed to the department,” the official told the Washington Post. “The department finds the recommendation extreme and excessive and disproportionate to Stone’s offenses. The department will clarify its position later today.”
The official claimed the decision to override the prosecutors' recommendation came before Trump's tweet, the Post reported. Many were suspicious of this claim, arguing that the unusual circumstances gave the clear impression that a friend of the president was getting special treatment.
Zelinsky and Kravis both served under former Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who first brought the charges against Stone.
“Roger Stone obstructed Congress’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, lied under oath, and tampered with a witness,” the original sentencing memo said. “And when his crimes were revealed by the indictment in this case, he displayed contempt for this Court and the rule of law.”
It defended the long sentence recommendation, noting: "Of crucial importance to the determination of an appropriate sentence here is that Stone decided to double – and triple – down on his criminal conduct by tampering with a witness for months in order to make sure his obstruction would be successful."
Walter Shaub, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics, said the resignation "highlights the outrage of [Attorney General Bill] Barr's politicization of DOJ."