The long-awaited accusation of Roger Stone finally fell on Friday, and it landed on rock like the numerous bricks. As a person who pursued Scooter Libby and others on similar charges and defended white collar cases involving similar charges as the alleged here-false statements, obstruction of justice and witness manipulation – my takeaway is that Stone should start getting his matters in order. To exclude a presidential congratulation (always the possibility of wild cards with a POTUS as Trump) Stone will be sentenced and receive a very substantial prison sentence. This is as close to a slam-dunk case as a prosecutor will ever bring.
There are several types of defense that are typically used to defend a case like this, and none of them are viable here.
"I didn't actually say what the government claims, I said / the government didn't understand what I was saying."
This defense can often work when the false statements are based on an interview conducted by field agents that you just need to take notes of the interview and not record it. In these cases, the defendant can plausibly claim that either they did not understand the agents' questions or the agents did not understand or did not remind their answers exactly. Any ambiguity in the question or the answer can be exploited. But it won't work for Stone, because the whole congressional hearing was transcribed, properly. The questions and answers were under oath and were not at all ambiguous or open to interpretation.
"You can't prove my answer was false."
In other words, doubt the government's version of what it claims is the truth. This can typically be done by attacking the credibility of government witnesses called to determine what the government claims to actually happen. So, for example, if the government was dependent on Randy Credico or Jerome Corsi to tell the jury the "truth," Stone's advice could attack their credibility. Even the most straight-arrow witnesses can get hold of the cross examination at the occasion. (If you have any doubts, just dig up the descriptions of how Tim Russert, perhaps America's most trusted journalist at that time, was tied in knots across the exam when he testified in the Libby trial.) Not pretty. )
Unfortunately, for Stone, and what makes fighting this case in vain, is that the government does not have to rely on the credibility of any individual to do its case. The e-mail and proof of receipt listed in scary details in the prosecution is not open to interpretation. Just an example: On the day that Stone testified that he had never sent or received emails or SMS messages from Credico, the two men had exchanged more than 30 text messages. Good luck spinning it.
" The stone is too insignificant for a prosecutor to always trust. "
And if it wasn't enough ̵
Finally, do not expect to see special councilor Robert Mueller make every attempt to turn Stone and make him collaborate. A defendant like Stone is far more difficult than he is worth for a prosecutor. The stone is too insignificant for a prosecutor to trust. He has told so many documented lies, and so many times he has said about his dirty tricks that he simply has too much luggage to handle, even though this will work together – which at least seems unlikely. Mueller, I suppose, would not even be willing to initiate a provisional debrief with Stone just to test the possibility of co-operation without concern that Stone would immediately go on TV with his friends in Fox News to decry Mueller Gestapo tactics.
In short, Mueller does not need Stone to come to another, and even if he did, he could not trust what Stone told him. Stone has nothing to sell, as Mueller would be interested in buying.
Sten clearly enjoys being in focus now. He should enjoy it while he can. His remaining years will not be nearly as pleasant.
Peter Zeidenberg is a former federal prosecutor and was a deputy lawyer in the prosecution of Scooter Libby. He is currently a white collar partner at Arent Fox in Washington, D.C. Follow him @ przeidenberg .