Roger Stone was arraigned in D.C. federal court today. As expected, Stone entered a plea of not guilty. An arraignment hearing is for the purpose of advising the defendant of the present charges against him, allow him to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty plus state additional terms of the defendant’s pre-trial release. Stone had to give up his passport and cannot contact any witnesses. If he violates the terms, he goes to jail pending his trial date.
As for Stone, he is slowly learning what it means to be a defendant. Stone voiced concerns about being arrested in the early morning hours with over 20 FBI agents. His specific concern was that he was arrested with more force than Osama Bin Laden. By the way, Osama Bin Laden was shot to death during the raid on his house. The courtesy of affording a white -collar defendant the ability to turn himself in with his attorney at his convenience is exactly that… a courtesy. It is not mandatory, as Stone discovered.
Now the real reason why the arrest was likely done in the manner it was conducted had to do with the parallel search warrant of Stone’s residences. An announcement in advance would have potentially allowed Stone to destroy or attempt to destroy documents. A search warrant is obtained with a judge signing off on it. In the affidavit that is presented to a judge to obtain a search warrant is the belief of what the search is more than likely to yield. The Mueller prosecutors had good reason to believe based on either cooperating testimony or either evidence that another crime or crimes may have been committed.
It is likely that more charges are being considered. Stone may be asserting his white privilege in public. However, as a charged defendant, he is no different than other defendants who go before the court. He will be processed in the same way as all others.
As the events unfold and Stone’s attorneys learn of the evidence against their client, Roger Stone may be less inclined to boldly assert the lack of evidence against him. As the indictment reads, the prosecution has what appears to be a tight case against Stone. The reality of possible jail time may soon become a wake-up call for Stone. It’s usually a matter of if you feel lucky and want to roll the dice. Of if you want to face reality that wearing an orange jumpsuit daily is staring you in the face. Reality comes in many forms.
Stone emphatically states his wants his day in court. In a jury trial in the District of Columbia, Stone will be facing jurors who reside in D.C. Most D.C. voters voted overwhelmingly Democrat by almost 91% in the November 2016 presidential election. Only 4% of all D.C. residents voted for Donald Trump. While the District of Columbia’s Black population is just slightly under 50%, those jurors are not likely to be sympathetic to Stone. The fact that many potential jurors in D.C. work for the federal government which was closed for 35 days due to Trump’s shutdown bears indirectly on how jurors might feel about Stone. Stone has made it clear of his close association to Donald Trump. While jurors are advised to base their verdict solely on the evidence presented in a case, no one juror is likely to be able to completely forego their thoughts about Trump.
Another hearing is scheduled for Friday, February 1 to plan future court events and hearings. Stone left the D.C. federal court without as much of a whimper, unlike his blustering and bold statements following his arrest in Florida. Maybe Stone is giving thought to those potential D.C. jurors who might hear his case and judge his guilt or innocence.
Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is an attorney and former prosecutor.