Breaking News

Roger Stone pleads not guilty in Russia probe case

Roger Stone, an informal adviser to President Trump, entered a not guilty plea in federal court in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday to criminal charges brought by special counsel Robert Mueller.

The self-proclaimed "dirty trickster" was arraigned on seven charges, including obstruction of a congressional inquiry, witness tampering and five counts of making false statements to Congress.

Stone's attorney, Robert Buschel, pleaded not guilty on his behalf in court shortly after 11 a.m.

Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson then ordered Stone to return to court at 1:30 p.m. on Friday for a status hearing before Judge Amy Berman Jackson, an Obama appointee.

Robinson warned Stone that failing to appear for the hearing would be a separate offense for which you could face jail time, a fine or both.

“Do you understand, sir?” she asked

“Yes your honor,” he said speaking for the first time.

Attorneys with the special counsel’s office and the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, D.C.  are jointly handling Stone’s case, Jeannie Rhee, a lawyer with Mueller’s office, said Tuesday.

“Both offices are jointly trying this case and have entered notices of appearance,” Rhee said.

The entire proceeding began shortly after 11 a.m. and lasted less than 15 minutes. Stone hardly spoke inside the courtroom. Before it ended, Robinson ordered Stone to go immediately to the U.S. Marshals office to complete booking.

In a hectic scene outside the courthouse, supporters could be heard chanting “Roger Stone." Some also held signs saying "Free Stone, jail Hillary" and "We stand with Stone."

Someone started blaring music from a stereo as Stone emerged from the courthouse, adding to an atmosphere reminiscent of a political rally.

Stone chose to leave through the less crowded of the two exits, sending a swarm of reporters, protesters, supporters and camera operators scrambling. Stone made his way through the crowd and slid into a black SUV without making any remarks. The crowd surrounded his car, some pushing cameras up against its dark tinted windows while police forcefully told people to clear the street.

Stone was swarmed as he left the courthouse by protesters, supporters and the media. He slid into a waiting black SUV and did not make any remarks to the press.

Mueller has accused Stone of lying to the House Intelligence Committee about his interactions regarding WikiLeaks, the organization that leaked troves of hacked Democratic emails ahead of the 2016 election that U.S. officials later concluded were stolen by Russian military hackers.

The 66 year-old has vowed to fight the charges, but legal experts say he risks serving anywhere from one to five years in prison if convicted.

The courtroom was packed on Tuesday where Stone appeared in a simple blue suit and tie that was contrasted by a powder blue pocket square, an understated ensemble compared to his usual flamboyant attire.

His appearance came just five days after he was arrested in Florida following an FBI raid of his home that was captured by CNN and aired on national television.

After his first court hearing in Florida, Stone paid the $250,000 bail that had been set to remain out of prison. His travel, however, has been restricted to Florida, New York, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Before Tuesday’s proceedings ended, Michael Marando with the U.S. Attorneys Office in D.C. told Robinson the parties have come to the agreement to designate Stone’s case as “complex.”

The designation means that the case will not be subject to speedy trial deadlines and is an acknowledgement by both sides that it will take longer to go to trial.

“It basically takes the case out from underneath a lot of deadlines that would otherwise be imposed,” said Glenn Kirschner, a former federal prosecutor in D.C.

Randy Lancaster-Short was among Stone’s supporters who attended Tuesday’s hearing. Outside the courthouse, the political director for the BlakPAC Star, said he’s a friend of Stone's and of the conservative author and conspiracy theorist, Jerome Corsi.

“We all worked together to support the candidacy of Donald Trump,” he said. “I think this whole process is dangerous to our Republic for people to not accept a person got elected.”

Bill Christeson was among the protesters outside the courthouse holding a sign that read “Dirty Traitor.”

“It’s dirty traitor, not dirty trickster,” he said.

Stone is the sixth associate of President Trump to be charged in connection with Mueller’s investigation. He has attracted attention as a result of his public statements appearing to forecast WikiLeaks releases before the election. Stone has denied having advanced knowledge of the hacked emails.

Stone is accused of lying about his interactions with Trump campaign officials and others regarding WikiLeaks in closed-door testimony before the House Intelligence Committee. In one bombshell passage, the indictment alleges that an unidentified senior Trump campaign official was “directed” to contact Stone about future WikiLeaks releases after the group leaked hacked Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails.

Stone is also alleged to have tried to prevent two associates, Corsi and radio host Randy Credico, from contradicting his false statements to the committee. Both have signaled willingness to testify against him in court.

Mueller has been investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and potential coordination between the Trump campaign and Moscow for 20 months. Trump has derided the probe as a partisan witch hunt, denying collusion between his campaign and the Kremlin.

Stone’s indictment does not allege any conspiracy involving the Trump campaign, WikiLeaks or the Russian government. Mueller has not yet charged any Americans in connection with a conspiracy to interfere in the election and is expected to lay out his findings in a report at the conclusion of the investigation.

Stone went on an unusual media tour after his arrest, appearing on major networks like ABC and Fox.

People indicted on criminal charges mostly try to stay out of the public eye outside of official court proceedings, but Stone’s vocal crusade to prove his innocence has catapulted his case into the national spotlight.

On ABC’s "This Week" with George Stephanopoulos, Stone said on Sunday that he thinks he was treated extraordinarily poorly and that the American people need to hear about it.

Stone said he is not a gun owner, has no prior criminal record and that his passport has expired.

“The idea that a 29-member swat team in full tactical gear with assault weapons would surround my house, 17 vehicles in my front yard, including two armored vehicles, a helicopter overhead … and that I would open the door looking down the barrel of assault weapons, that I would be frog-marched out front barefooted, handcuffed when they simply could have contacted me,” he said.

Meanwhile, the special counsel in a motion last week had requested that his indictment remain under seal until after his arrest, citing risks Stone could flee or destroy evidence.

Trump’s longtime ally said if he was going to destroy evidence, he would have done so a long time ago and that if Mueller had just called his lawyers, he would have turned himself in.

“This is an expensive show of force to try to depict me as public enemy No. 1, the OG, to attempt to poison the jury pool,” he said. “These are Gestapo tactics.”

At the same time, Stone has not categorically ruled out striking a deal to cooperate with the investigation.

Stone, who is known for being a colorful character, told Stephanopoulos he expects to be acquitted and vindicated, saying his attorneys believe this indictment “thin as piss on a rock.”

No comments