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Judge rips Trump tweets on 'tainted' juror while Roger Stone lawyers admit they never Googled her

The president attacked the forewoman as the hearing about a new trial for his former adviser was underway.
Image: Amy Berman Jackson
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson at an event at the E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse in Washington in April 2016.Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP file

The judge presiding over the Roger Stone case on Tuesday ripped comments from the president and his allies about the jury's forewoman as dangerous, while attorneys for the convicted former Trump adviser struggled to show how the panelist "tainted" the jury.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly bashed the forewoman publicly over the past week since Stone was sentenced to over three years in prison for obstructing a congressional investigation of Russia's meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Trump, as have Stone's attorneys in sealed court filings, has accused the juror of being biased and of having tainted the jury.

But two other jurors testified Tuesday that the forewoman made sure there was no rush to convict Stone, while Stone's attorneys said they'd never even Googled the woman, who they claimed might have given them "misleading" answers during jury selection.

"The president of the United States used his Twitter platform to disseminate a particular point of view about a juror," U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said at a hearing. "While judges may have volunteered for their positions, jurors are not volunteers. They are deserving of the public's respect, and they deserve to have their privacy respected."

She noted that Fox News host Tucker Carlson has gone after the juror on air, having blasted her as an "anti-Trump zealot."

"Any attempts to invade the privacy of the jurors or to harass or intimidate them is completely antithetical to our system of justice," Jackson said, noting that they could also jeopardize jurors' safety. "Individuals who are angry about Mr. Stone's conviction may choose to take it out on them personally."

As she was speaking, Trump tweeted again about the juror — and the judge.

"There has rarely been a juror so tainted as the forewoman in the Roger Stone case. Look at her background. She never revealed her hatred of 'Trump' and Stone. She was totally biased, as is the judge," Trump tweeted. "Miscarriage of justice. Sad to watch!"

Jackson made her comments at a hearing involving Stone's request for a new trial, details of which were revealed Tuesday. Stone's attorneys say a new trial is needed because of some of the juror's social media posts before the trial, in which she criticized Trump as racist.

In contrast to Trump's assertions that the juror was "totally tainted," Stone's attorney Seth Ginsberg told the judge that her posts about Trump "imply a bias" against Stone because he's a longtime friend and supporter of and adviser to the president. Stone's attorneys also said they believe the juror disregarded court orders not to read about the case during the trial, but they didn't explain the basis for their allegation.

The juror, who testified in a sealed courtroom with the audio piped into another room for reporters and spectators, said she had followed the judge's instruction.

The forewoman was not named in court, but she has previously spoken publicly about the case. She told lawyers during jury selection that she was a Democrat who ran for Congress in Tennessee in 2012.

Stone's attorneys focused on an answer in her jury questionnaire, in which she hadn't answered a yes-or-no question about whether she had written "anything for public consumption" about Stone or special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. In a space provided for more information, she wrote: "I can't remember. I may have. I'm honestly not sure."

Stone's attorneys never asked her about her the response. It has since emerged that she'd tweeted a single story about Stone's arrest in January 2019 with the comment "Brought to you by the lock her up peanut gallery."

Stone's attorneys also suggested that her questionnaire answers about her opinions on the Justice Department and the FBI were "at best misleading."

"It may be that she believed them to be truthful, but she concealed evidence regarding her views that would have been important for the court and the parties to understand her bias," they said.

During questioning in jury selection, the woman said she could be fair and impartial, and Stone's attorneys did not object to her service.

The judge asked whether Stone's legal team, which included jury consultants, had done any research on her background at all during jury selection.

The judge suggested that the posts could have been easily discovered by Stone's team of lawyers and jury consultants during jury selection with a simple Google search. Stone attorney Robert Buschel acknowledged that they hadn't done one.

"I think it's a regular practice by trial lawyers these days to Google individuals on the jury panel list, wouldn't you agree?" Jackson asked. Buschel responded that the team didn't have enough resources to run such checks.

Two other jurors were called to testify at the sealed hearing. Their names were withheld from the public because of the judge's concerns about the jurors' safety.

Both testified that they thought that the forewoman was fair and that she never tried to impose her views or share outside material about the case.

In one instance, the forewoman encouraged the jury to take another look at a charge on which they had almost all decided that Stone was guilty.

"We had a problem where most of us agreed on our answer. We already said he was guilty, but it was the foreman that insisted that we examine question 3, charge 3, a little more," said the second juror to testify.

"It was the foreperson who insisted that that level of attention be paid to that count, even though some of you were already ready to decide?" Jackson asked.

"Yes," the juror replied.

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The judge said she would rule on the motion at a later date, but she signaled that she was prepared to reject the defense's claim that the forewoman's answer was misleading, despite her anti-Trump social media posts.

"Having an opinion about the president or his policies does not mean that she could not fairly judge the evidence about Roger Stone," Jackson said.

The judge ended the hearing with a promise to issue a decision soon. If, as appears likely, she denies the motion for a new trial, Stone's attorneys will almost certainly appeal and ask that he be allowed to remain free on bail while the case is on appeal.

Stone was in court Tuesday but said nothing during the roughly five-hour hearing.