By Sarah N. Lynch and Jan Wolfe
(Reuters) – A federal judge on Thursday denied a bid for a new trial by U.S. President Donald Trump’s longtime friend and adviser Roger Stone after the veteran Republican operative accused the jury forewoman of being tainted by political bias.
U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson rejected Stone’s claim that the forewoman was biased against Trump and therefore could not be impartial in deciding Stone’s guilt or innocence during the trial.
Stone’s request for a new trial “is a tower of indignation, but at the end of the day, there is little of substance holding it up,” Jackson said in an 81-page decision.
Jackson sentenced Stone on Feb. 20 to three years and four months in prison after a jury convicted him on Nov. 15 on seven counts of obstruction of justice, witness tampering and lying to lawmakers investigating Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.
The charges stemmed from former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry that documented Moscow’s meddling to boost Trump’s candidacy.
Stone was convicted of lying to a House of Representative committee about his attempts to contact WikiLeaks, the website that released damaging emails about Hillary Clinton, Trump’s 2016 Democratic election rival, that U.S. intelligence officials have concluded were stolen by Russian hackers.
With his motion for a new trial denied, Stone is expected to ask an appeals court to throw out his conviction.
During a February hearing, Stone’s lawyers presented social media posts by the jury forewoman that they said showed that her lack of impartiality deprived their client of a fair trial.
One of the juror’s posts at issue was a Twitter post on the day of Stone’s arrest that linked to an article about Mueller’s investigation along with the words “Brought to you by the lock her up peanut gallery,” referring to “lock her up” chants by Trump supporters in 2016 about Clinton.
Most of the juror’s posts were not about Stone, instead making reference either to Trump or Mueller’s inquiry, two common subjects of political discussion among Americans at the time they were written. The jury forewoman made Twitter posts during the trial, but all were unrelated to the case.
Trump, who has not ruled out a pardon for Stone, posted a Twitter attack on the forewoman during the February hearing.
Jackson said in her decision that the juror’s opinions about Trump did not translate into bias against Stone.
“The assumption underlying the motion—that one can infer from the juror’s opinions about the president that she could not fairly consider the evidence against the defendant—is not supported by any facts or data,” she wrote.
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Tim Ahmann; Editing by Will Dunham, Leslie Adler, Richard Chang and Daniel Wallis)