WASHINGTON (AP) – By Saturday, heâ€™ll be Inmate No. 19579-104.
But Roger Stone, a longtime confidant of President Donald Trump, will start his prison sentence without needing to comply with a Bureau of Prisons directive that newly sentenced inmates be sent to a federal quarantine site.
Just last week, the agency said it would â€œprocess all newly-sentenced Bureau inmates through one of three quarantine sitesâ€ or at a federal detention facility. But that wonâ€™t be the case for Stone.
Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman Sue Allison told The Associated Press that Stone is supposed to surrender to the Bureau of Prisons by Saturday and will not be required to go to a quarantine facility. That’s because he’s voluntarily surrendering, she said. The agency has an exemption for those who are voluntarily surrendering, absolving them of the requirement to be sent to a quarantine site, a policy designed to stop the spread of coronavirus that has exploded in the federal prison system. The exception was not laid out in the policy the agency made public last week.
Advocates have raised alarms for years about racial disparities of so-called â€œvoluntary surrendersâ€ which typically happen in cases with special circumstances or involve affluent or high-profile defendants.
Stone will need to quarantine for 14 days at the prison where he surrenders, Allison said. The agency will not say where he’ll serve his prison sentence.
As of Thursday, 4,979â€¬ inmates had tested positive for COVID-19 since late March; the Bureau of Prisons has said 3,232 had recovered. At least 60 inmates have died.
The response from the federal Bureau of Prisons coronavirus has raised alarm among advocates and lawmakers about whether the agency is doing enough to ensure the safety of the about 137,000 inmates serving time in federal facilities.
And even though officials have stressed infection and death rates inside prisons are lower compared with outside, a high number of inmates tested come back positive – signs that COVID-19 cases are left uncovered.
Stoneâ€™s ability to skirt the quarantine-site rule is likely to ignite inquiries from Democratic lawmakers and prison advocates who have raised concerns about the appearance that the Bureau of Prisons has been loosening its rules to help allies of the president and high-profile inmates.
Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was released from prison on home confinement earlier this month to serve the rest of his prison sentence at home, despite not meeting the bureauâ€™s criteria to be considered a priority for home confinement. And Trumpâ€™s longtime personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen was also released from a federal prison last week on furlough and is expected to transition to home confinement for the rest of his sentence on charges of campaign finance fraud and lying to Congress.
The Bureau of Prisons has disputed that it is giving any preferential treatment to high-profile inmates and has said more than 2,400 inmates have been moved to home confinement since March 26, when Attorney General William Barr first issued a memo ordering an increase in the use of home confinement. More than 1,200 others have been approved and are in the pipeline to be released, the agency said.
Stone was convicted in November on all seven counts of an indictment that accused him of lying to Congress, tampering with a witness and obstructing the House investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to tip the 2016 election.
He was the sixth Trump aide or adviser to be convicted on charges brought as part of Muellerâ€™s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Before his Feb. 20 sentencing, the Justice Department leadership backed away from its initial recommendation just hours after Trump tweeted his displeasure at the recommendation of up to nine years in prison, saying it had been too harsh. The move led to a brief flare-up between Attorney General Willam Barr and Trump.
Stone was sentenced to serve more than three years in prison plus two yearsâ€™ probation and a $20,000 fine.