Kentucky Attorney Weighs In On Stone Sentencing Controversy
A Kentucky attorney is among the 2,600 U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) alumni who have signed a letter strongly condemning what they call interference in the fair administration of justice in the case against former Trump campaign advisor, Roger Stone. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson handed down a three year, four month sentence today for Stone, who was found guilty by a jury in November 2019.
John Caudill, an attorney in Owensboro, served 16 years with the DOJ as a federal prosecutor in the western Kentucky district, and his name is among the thousands of former employees who signed the letter. He said he felt compelled to participate because he found U.S. Attorney General William Barr’s actions “very disappointing” and “entirely inappropriate.”
“When the president steps in and inserts influence based on a personal friendship, it undermines equal justice under the law and undermines the faith of the public that the system is fair,” he explained. “Barr should have immediately responded and rejected what the president said in the strongest sense.”
Caudill said he also signed the letter because he wanted to show public support for the four-man prosecution team whose case resulted in the successful conviction. He said one of the most difficult parts of the job for federal prosecutors is going toe-to-toe with high-profile defendants in white collar cases because they’re well funded and well connected. He said the prosecutorial team deserved to be lauded for their achievement but instead were lambasted by President Donald Trump, a measure he called “unprecedented.”
“The attorney general is supposed to serve as a firewall when his department is criticized unfairly and that’s what [Barr] should have done, and he completely failed at it,” he said. “Barr basically condoned what the president said by taking over the case and changing the sentencing recommendation. It’s something that never happens in the justice department.”
Caudill recalled his days as a federal prosecutor, some of those he served under Barr who was, at the time, serving under President George H.W. Bush, and said he knows the system can work well under effective leadership.
“Perfect justice is elusive but working as a prosecutor in federal judiciary, you come closer to it than with any other institution because of all the checks and balances,” he explained. “No two crimes are identical but when they’re similar, the idea is they should receive the same sentence and it shouldn’t be about race, gender, ethnicity, who your friends are or where you live.”
While the letter may not result in Barr’s resignation and will unlikely influence the presiding judge’s ruling, Caudill said it’s clear he’s not alone in his disappointment of the potentially irreparable damage to the reputation of the DOJ.
“I [do] think it’s a reflection, however, of the sentiment within the department” he added. “I think it’s safe to say the disappointment manifested in that letter from people that used to work in that department is representative of the people who work there now who are unable to express themselves.”
The four-man team of federal prosecutors who secured a guilty verdict on seven charges against Stone recommended a seven- to nine-year prison sentence for his crimes which included witness tampering, obstruction of an official proceeding and making false statements. Shortly after the orignal recommended sentence was made public, President Donald Trump took to Twitter, calling it “horrible and very unfair,” and referring to the measure as a “miscarriage of justice.”
Shortly after Trump’s tweet, Barr lowered the prison sentence recommendation for Stone. As a result, the entire four-man team of prosecutors resigned from the case, one of whom also resigned from the DOJ, and thousands of former DOJ employees have signed the letter calling for his resignation. The letter acknowledges the signatures are tied to employees who have worked for both Republican and Democratic administrations. The letter states Barr’s action has tarnished the department’s reputation.
Barr has denied allegations and insinuations that outside influences affected his judgement in changing the sentencing recommendation for Stone. During an interview with ABC News, he also expressed his displeasure with Trump’s tweets, saying the president’s comments make it “impossible” for him to do his job.
"As I said at my confirmation hearing, I think the essential role of the attorney general is to keep law enforcement, the criminal process sacrosanct to make sure there is no political interference in it," Barr told ABC.
Barr acknowledged he was responsible for directing the submission of a second memo in Stone's case recommending a lighter punishment.