The President Commutes The Sentence of Roger Stone
This week we heard about the President commuting the sentence of Roger Stone, who was convicted of crimes that included lying to Congress. It was announced just days before Stone was set to report to a federal prison. So, what does this mean for Roger Stone? And what is the difference between a pardon and a commutation? Attorney Paul Harding of Martin, Harding & Mazzotti, LLP discusses the issue on WVMT.
Please give it a listen or read the transcript below.
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Interviewer: We’re talking with Paul Harding from Martin, Harding & Mazzotti. And, Paul, I wanted to ask you, this week we heard about the President commuting the sentence of Roger Stone. And this isn’t about whether that’s right or wrong. I’m curious about what this means for Roger Stone. I mean, I have some, I think, some basic understandings. He’s still guilty, but he just doesn’t have to finish his sentence or in this case, start his sentence.
Paul: Yep, exactly. Correct. And I think the confusion comes in when you hear about people getting presidential or state pardons. So, maybe the best way to define commutation is maybe what it’s not. So, a pardon is something that we see that people then are released from prison, or maybe it’s post-release, and it really wipes out the conviction. It’s as if you were never convicted. It kind of cleans up your record. And you sort of look them up, there’s no nothing in the criminal justice system. It just has a sealed pardon. Here, commutation just says, “You know what, we’re gonna do something. We gotta substitute a lesser penalty for what was given to you at the time of your conviction.” Here, the substitution is no jail time, and he goes home.
Interviewer: And so Paul, why do you think the President did this as a commutation of the sentence rather than an actual pardon?
Paul: Well, if you listen to Roger, he says that it is giving him an opportunity to fight the conviction. Meaning Mr. Stone says this and wrongly convicted, because if it goes away as a pardon, then he has nothing to fight, right? It didn’t exist. It reputationally still exists, the media is still with it existing. But there’s nothing legally for him to attack. So he’s saying, “Hey, this is the best route. I’m home. I can fight this. And, in essence, clear my name.”
Interviewer: What does this mean for felonies? I know that one of the repercussions for felons and it’s been talked about for quite a bit is the fact that you can’t vote in many cases. Does that still apply if somebody were to commute the sentence of a felon?
Paul: Right. So, the stuff that applies to a felon is still gonna apply to you. And carry a firearm, voting, things like that. So in here, when you reduce or substitute this commutation, you still have the underlying charge. So, sure, that is exactly what he’s gonna fight. My gosh, Roger Stone, not voting would be like, not breathing or something. His whole life is around this political system. So, there are exceptions. Time can pass and you can reapply and you can do things. But no, you still are under the same auspices of the whatever you were convicted of.
Interviewer: Now, there’s no question the President has pretty sweeping powers when it comes to pardons and commutations of sentences. So, there’s no question that he can do this. It really comes down to now political ramifications, correct?
Paul: Yeah. So I guess, because there just seems to be… The President, I think, looks at these things and says, “Listen, this all ties into this perception of that there was the Russian hoax, right?” That this investigation was all politically motivated. And so Roger got caught up in something that should never have happened. And he’s adamant about it. He’s not…he didn’t do it quietly. He did it boldly. And so, the folks who were not in the President’s corner are probably a little further…if you can get further away, they’re getting further away. And the folks who support the President say right on. So, I think it probably doesn’t have a whole lot of political effect. I don’t think it’s gonna sway somebody one way or the other, even if you’re on the fence with the administration, I think it’s sort of a one day story and gets wiped out.
Interviewer: Either way, Roger Stone kind of wins. And at the same time, he will still be out there, still talking and look for the book coming out later on this fall, I’m sure.
Paul: Which he now can keep the proceeds. If you’re incarcerated and you write a book, the government has ways of taking your money. So absolutely, yeah, it’s probably already written, but yes, it will be coming out.
Interviewer: Well, Paul Harding, we really appreciate the insight. If you have a question about the law, reach out to Martin, Harding & Mazzotti, 1800law1010.com.