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Former Memphis City Schools Board President Tomeka Hart revealed Wednesday that she was the foreperson of the jury that convicted former Trump adviser Roger Stone on obstruction charges last year — and soon afterward, a string of her anti-Trump, left-wing social media posts came to light.
Meanwhile, another Stone juror, Seth Cousins, donated to former Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke and other progressive causes, federal election records reviewed by Fox News show. And, another juror’s husband reportedly worked at the Justice Department division that played a role in prosecuting Stone.
The revelations came as President Trump has called the handling of Stone’s prosecution “ridiculous” and “an insult to our country.”
The drama began when Hart confirmed to CNN and other media organizations Wednesday that she had written a Facebook post supporting the Justice Department prosecutors in the Stone case who abruptly stepped down from their posts on Tuesday, saying she “can’t keep quiet any longer.” The prosecutors apparently objected after senior DOJ officials overrode their recommendation to U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson that Stone face up to 9 years in prison.
“I want to stand up for Aaron Zelinsky, Adam Jed, Michael Marando, and Jonathan Kravis — the prosecutors on the Roger Stone trial,” Hart wrote in the post. “It pains me to see the DOJ now interfere with the hard work of the prosecutors. They acted with the utmost intelligence, integrity, and respect for our system of justice.”
FILE – In this Nov. 12, 2019 file photo, Roger Stone, a longtime Republican provocateur and former confidant of President Donald Trump, waits in line at the federal court in Washington. A Justice Department official tells the AP that the agency is backing away from its sentencing recommendation of between seven to nine years in prison for Trump confidant Roger Stone. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Hart added: “As foreperson [of the jury], I made sure we went through every element, of every charge, matching the evidence presented in the case that led us to return a conviction of guilty on all 7 counts.”
Independent journalist Mike Cernovich, not CNN, then first reported that a slew of Hart’s other publicly available Twitter and Facebook posts readily suggested a strong political bias. Hart unsuccessfully ran for Congress as a Democrat in 2012.
In an August 2017 tweet, Hart quoted someone referring to Trump as a member of the KKK.
“Gotta love it!” Hart wrote on Jan. 13, 2018, in response to a news report that a vulgarity had been projected onto the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.
A week later, on Jan. 21, 2018, she shared an opinion piece entitled, “What’s so extremely, uniquely wrong about Trump’s presidency.”
On March 24, 2019, Hart shared a Facebook post saying that Republicans who complained about then-Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe were deliberately “ignoring the numerous indictments, guilty pleas, and convictions of people in 45’s inner-circle,” referring to Trump.
And, on Nov. 15, 2019 — the day she voted to convict Stone on seven counts of obstruction, witness tampering and making false statements to Congress — Hart tweeted two “heart” emojis, followed by two pump-fist emojis.
Her tweet linked to a Facebook post that has since been taken down from public view.
Hart did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment. The Memphis Commercial Appeal noted that she was a native of the city and had served a term as the president of its school board.
The posts surfaced the same day that Judge Jackson, who oversaw the Stone case, unsealed her order from earlier this month denying Stone’s request for a new trial.
Stone’s team argued that an unnamed juror had misled the court concerning his or her exposure to the media during the case, and also had some potential bias because of his or her work with the IRS, which sometimes has interfaced with the DOJ on criminal matters.
But, Jackson shot down the motion for a new trial, saying the juror’s potential bias was not demonstrated — and even if it were, it wasn’t significant enough to warrant the drastic step of calling for a new trial.
Courts allow for a new trial, Jackson noted, when “a serious miscarriage of justice may have occured.” Bias is a permissible reason to remove a juror or call for a new trial only in “extreme situations where the relationship between a prospective juror and some aspect of the litigation is such that it is highly unlikely that the average person could remain impartial in his deliberations under the circumstances.”
Jackson, who was appointed to the bench by President Barack Obama, also took a shot at Stone’s team for failing to uncover the information sooner.
“The defense could have easily conducted the same Internet search included in the instant motion and could have raised concerns at that time,” Jackson wrote.
Fox News reported earlier Tuesday that top brass at the DOJ were “shocked” that prosecutors handling the Stone case had recommended Monday night that Jackson sentence the 67-year-old Stone to between 87 and 108 months in prison. The prosecutors asserted in the Monday filing that Stone’s conduct post-indictment — including violating the judge’s social media gag orders — merited a sentence much longer than the 15 to 21 months that the defense said was actually advisable under the federal sentencing guidelines.
In a new, amended filing Tuesday afternoon, the DOJ told Jackson that the government “respectfully submits that a sentence of incarceration far less than 87 to 108 months’ imprisonment would be reasonable under the circumstances,” but that the government “ultimately defers to the court as to the specific sentence to be imposed.”
Government officials wrote in the amended filing that while it was “technically” possible to argue that Stone deserved the severe federal sentencing enhancement for threatening physical harm to a witness, such a move would violate the spirit of the federal guidelines.
It would place Stone in a category of the guidelines that “typically applies in cases involving violent offenses, such as armed robbery, not obstruction cases,” the government argued, noting that Stone’s “advanced age, health, personal circumstances, and lack of criminal history” also counseled against the harsh penalty.
Specifically, prosecutors said that although Stone allegedly had threatened witness Randy Credico’s therapy dog, Bianca — saying he was “going to take that dog away from you” — it was important to recognize that Credico, a New York radio host, has acknowledged that he “never in any way felt that Stone himself posed a direct physical threat to me or my dog.”
The government continued, “If the court were not to apply the eight-level enhancement for threatening a witness with physical injury, it would result in the defendant receiving an advisory guidelines range of 37 to 46 months, which as explained below is more in line with the typical sentences imposed in obstruction cases.”
A senior DOJ official confirmed to Fox News that senior leadership officials there made the call to reverse the initial sentencing recommendation, saying the filing on Monday evening was not only extreme, but also substantially inconsistent with how the prosecutors had briefed DOJ leadership they would proceed on the case. The “general communication” between the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the main DOJ had led senior officials to expect a more moderate sentence, the official told Fox News.
“It’s surprising that would be the line in the sand — an amended filing,” a senior DOJ official told Fox News, adding that the problem with the original sentencing recommendation was it told the judge that the only way to serve justice was a lengthy sentence.
“We’re backing off from, ‘It has to be this,'” the DOJ source told Fox News. “The amended filing says it’s a serious crime, and prison time is appropriate; we’re just saying it doesn’t have to be 87 to 108 months.”
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Trump said he stayed out of internal DOJ deliberations, but strongly opposed their initial sentencing recommendation.
“I stay out of things to a degree that people wouldn’t believe,” Trump said. He added that the initial recommendation was “ridiculous” and called it “an insult to our country.”
Later, Trump took a shot at Jackson, writing on Twitter: “Is this the Judge that put Paul Manafort in SOLITARY CONFINEMENT, something that not even mobster Al Capone had to endure? How did she treat Crooked Hillary Clinton? Just asking!”
Fox News’ Jake Gibson and Alex Pfeiffer contributed to this report.