WASHINGTON — A federal judge on Friday denied a request by President Trump’s friend Roger J. Stone Jr. for a two-month delay before he begins serving his prison term, despite the fact that his motion was unopposed by the Justice Department.
Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia granted Mr. Stone an additional two weeks before he must report to a federal prison in Jesup, Ga., but ordered him placed under home confinement in the meantime.
The judge’s order seemed to reflect some impatience about why Mr. Stone, a former campaign adviser to Mr. Trump, had not yet been imprisoned. In a trial Judge Jackson oversaw, a jury convicted him in November on seven felonies, including lying to federal investigators, tampering with a witness and impeding a congressional inquiry. The judge sentenced him in February to 40 months in prison.
The Bureau of Prisons initially ordered Mr. Stone, 67, to report to prison in April, then put off the date until June 30 after the judge, in an order denying him a new trial, said his imprisonment should begin no sooner than April 30.
Then this month, citing the pandemic, Mr. Stone asked Judge Jackson to delay his imprisonment until Sept. 1. He noted his age and health concerns, which were not publicly revealed.
In a nod to the intense criticism over the Justice Department’s handling of the case, prosecutors told Judge Jackson that they did not oppose the delay — but purely because of department guidelines for defendants who are about to begin their prison terms and pose no risk of flight or threat to public safety.
“There is no instance in which this office has opposed a request to extend a self-surrender date during the pandemic,” prosecutors in Washington said this week in a filing to the judge. The department’s stance was drafted “to conform with our policy and practice — and for no other reason,” its lawyers said.
That seemed to conflict with a statement from Mr. Stone’s lawyers. Their filing to the judge said government lawyers had told them this month that the Bureau of Prisons “was no longer extending surrender dates based on Covid-19 and that, therefore, B.O.P. would not be changing Stone’s June 30, 2020, surrender date.”
After further discussions, Mr. Stone’s lawyers said, they were informed that the department would not oppose his request for a delay.
The Justice Department’s handling of Mr. Stone’s case has been deeply fraught. He was one of a string of former Trump aides who were charged as a result of the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
After Attorney General William P. Barr reversed their sentencing recommendation for a stiff prison term, four career prosecutors quit the case and one of them left the department entirely. This week, in a statement to the House Judiciary Committee during an oversight hearing, one of those prosecutors said his superiors cited “heavy pressure from the highest levels of the Department of Justice to cut Stone a break.”
“What I heard — repeatedly — was that Roger Stone was being treated differently from any other defendant because of his relationship to the president,” said the prosecutor, Aaron S.J. Zelinsky. Mr. Zelinsky has now left his assignment in the United States attorney’s office in Washington but remains a department prosecutor in Baltimore.
Mr. Barr has dismissed Mr. Zelinsky’s account as hearsay.
The coronavirus has been spreading through federal prisons. So far, 89 inmates and one staff member have died of the disease, according to Bureau of Prisons statistics.
In an Instagram post this month, Mr. Stone complained that he had been ordered to serve his sentence in a prison that had a “substantial” problem with the virus, while other high-profile prisoners were granted reprieves.
But Judge Jackson wrote that Mr. Stone’s prison was as yet “unaffected.” She said two weeks of home confinement for Mr. Stone would help protect other inmates “who share defendant’s anxiety over the potential introduction and spread of the virus.”