Politics

Anti-Trump social media posts by Roger Stone jury forewoman fuel controversy in case

Key Points
  • Lawyers for President Donald Trump's friend Roger Stone are eyeing anti-Trump and other social media posts by the woman who says she served as the forewoman of for Stone's jury.
  • Stone, a longtime Republican operative, was convicted of lying to Congress aboult his contacts with WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential eleciton and witness tampering.
  • The posts by the forewoman, Tomeka Hart,  included one referring to Stone's arrest last year and one made the day he was convicted.
Roger Stone, former adviser to Donald Trump's presidential campaign, and his wife Nydia Stone arrive at federal court in Washington, D.C., on Monday, Nov. 4, 2019.
Al Drago | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Lawyers for President Donald Trump's longtime friend and advisor Roger Stone are eyeing anti-Trump and other social media posts by a woman who says she served as the forewoman of the jury in his case.

Stone in November was convicted of lying to Congress and witness tampering.

The posts by the forewoman, Tomeka Hart, which included one referring to Stone's arrest last year and one made the day he was convicted, came to light Wednesday night and added more fuel to a firestorm of controversy over the upcoming sentencing of the Republican operative.

Trump himself on Thursday morning in a Twitter post called out Hart, a Democrat who once ran for Congress, for what he said appeared to be her "significant bias."

Trump has repeatedly blasted the prosecution of his former advisor Stone, and has refused to rule out pardoning him.

One of Stone's lawyers, Grant Smith, in an interview with CNBC, said, "We are reviewing all of the recently posted new information, and we will evaluate and take the appropriate action."

Smith declined to say whether such action could include a request for a new trial for Stone, who is due to be sentenced Feb. 20.

Joseph Tacopina, a New York criminal defense lawyer who is not connected to the case, told CNBC that getting a judge to grant Stone a new trial based on Hart's posts is "going to be monumentally difficult."

"Even taking her posts at face value, it doesn't rise to the level of automatic reversal," Tacopina said.

He said the defense would face extremely long odds of getting a new trial if it could be shown that Hart did not give false statements during jury selection, and if her social media posts could have been discovered by Stone's lawyers during the selection process but failed to do so.

Michael Caputo, a New York Republican strategist who worked on Trump's 2016 campaign, and a friend of Stone's, told CNBC that during the trial he closely watched Hart from the moment she disclosed in jury selection that she had once run for Congress until the verdict came in.

""She said [during jury seletction that] Donald Trump didn't interest her that much and felt that she could be fair considering justice for one of his aides," Caputo recalled.

"We suspected that she was biased," Caputo said, referring to himself and Stone's family. "When I heard that she was selected the foreman I expected the worst."

Caputo said that "I was stunned" to learn that Hart had public social media posts critical of Trump that were not discovered or raised by the defense during jury selection in an effort to keep Hart off the panel.

"If this wasn't discovered it means it wasn't sought," Caputo said.

Caputo, who has organized a committee to push Trump to pardon Stone, said that Stone's sentencing should be postponed pending an inquiry into Hart's answers during jury selection.

Hart did not immediately return a request for comment.

Her Facebook page was deactivated as of Thursday morning, but her Twitter account remained public.

Hart's LinkedIn page identifies her as a senior program officer at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. She previously served as president and CEO of the Memphis Urban League, and on the Memphis, Tenn., school board.

CNN reported Wednesday that Hart, in a Facebook post this week, said she wanted to "stand up" for the four prosecutors who quit Stone's case after the Department of Justice said it would reduce their recommendation that Stone serve between seven and nine years in prison.

The DOJ's move, which came after Trump harshly criticized the first recommendation, outraged congressional Democrats, who accused Trump of improper political interference in the department by pushing for a lighter sentence for Stone.

Memphis Urban League President and CEO Tomeka Hart in Memphis TN on Sept. 29th, 2010.
The Commer via Alamy

The crimes for which Stone was convicted related to his lying to Congress about his contacts with WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential election, and for pressuring an associate, Randy Credico, to corroborate his lies. WikiLeaks during the election released emails stolen by Russian agents from the chief of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton's campaign and from the Democratic National Committee.

"I have kept my silence for months. Initially, it was for my safety," Hart wrote, according to a screengrab of her Facebook post published by the Daily Memphian newspaper. "Then, I decided to remain silent out of fear of politicizing the matter. But I can't keep quiet any longer."

"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 her 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."

"As foreperson, 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," she wrote in the same Facebook post.

Mike Cernovich, a right-wing commentator, flagged Hart's social media posts after CNN published its article about her support for the Stone prosecutors.

"How in the [expletive] did a judge approve this far left wing activist as a fair and impartial juror?" Cernovich wrote.

One of Hart's posts was made on Twitter on Nov. 15, the same day that she and other jurors voted to find Stone guilty in Washington, D.C., federal court.

That post shows two "heart" emojis and a two clenched fist emojis, with a link to a Facebook post that has since been deleted. Hart's Facebook page was not public as of Thursday, after news of her posts were first reported.

A week before that, as Stone's trial was underway, Hart wrote a Twitter post that mentioned the "standing ovation" that Trump received when he attended a University of Alabama football game, which the Crimson Tide lost to LSU.

"Correlation doesn't equal causation, but I'm just saying ..." Hart wrote.

Hart, who in 2012 was defeated in a Democratic primary bid to unseat incumbent House Rep. Steve Cohen in Tennessee's 9th Congressional District, in January 2019 retweeted another Twitter post by another user about Stone.

In that post, the other Twitter user had written, five days after Stone's pre-dawn arrest at his Florida home by heavily armed FBI agents, "Roger Stone has y'all talking about reviewing use of force guidelines," followed by a list of black people whose deaths at the hands of police had previously led to complaints about excessive force by law enforcement.

A month before being picked for the jury, Hart had tweeted a Politico article detailing a 2014 photo of Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani and an associate, Lev Parnas, who was involved in the effort to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden that led to Trump's recent impeachment.

Also in October, Hart posted an article about an Italian translator looking perplexed because she "can't believe her ears translating Trump."

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On Wednesday, a court filing revealed that the judge in Stone's case, Amy Berman Jackson, last week denied a sealed request by Stone to grant him a new trial. Stone had argued that he deserved a new trial on the grounds that the judge rejected his earlier motion at his trial to strike another juror, not Hart, from the case for cause.

Stone had argued that the unidentified juror "should have been removed for bias" because the juror "is employed in a division of the Internal Revenue Service 'that works hand-in-hand with the Department of Justice prosecuting criminal tax matters,'" and because they "'violated the Court's order to avoid media coverage of the case,'" Jackson wrote.

The judge noted that there was nothing in the juror's questionnaire or their testimony to support Stone's claim that the juror works "on criminal matters or interacts with the Department of Justice at all, much less that" the juror "works 'hand-in-hand' with Justice Department lawyers prosecuting criminal tax cases."

Jackson also noted that the juror works on "'civil tax administration, mainly for large and international businesses, and they do not even refer matters to the" Justice Department.

- Additional reporting by Tucker Higgins