When you are the jury foreperson in a high-profile trial that affects the fortunes of the sitting president of the United States, a related post on your Facebook page will make you a sought-after interview. Such is the case for former Memphian Tomeka Hart.
Only minutes after a message posted Wednesday on Hart’s Facebook page, national cable news channels and other outlets bombarded her with interview requests. All were declined – for now.
A former commissioner on the old Memphis City Schools board and its successor, Hart was a juror on the case involving President Donald Trump’s longtime associate, Roger Stone. After the four prosecutors recommended a prison sentence of seven to nine years, Trump railed against the sentence as “a miscarriage of justice.”
Following the president’s very-public opposition to the proposed sentence, the U.S. Department of Justice announced on Tuesday that it was “pulling back” on its request to sentence Stone to the recommended sentence, overriding its own prosecutors.
Trump insists he had nothing to do with the reversal.
When Justice Department officials indicated that “the sentence should be far less,” Hart broke her silence to “stand up” for the four prosecutors with an impassioned Facebook post. Stating that she couldn’t “keep quiet any longer,” Hart shared a copy of the posting with CNN, but declined to discuss it further.
Hart was asked for an interview by The New Tri-State Defender and replied in a text:
“Dr. Mitchell, sorry just getting to this. Beyond the post, I’m not ready for interviews. That could change tomorrow, but that post took a lot out of me. I’m still processing. If/when I’m ready, I’ll let you know. Feel free to talk about the post. Thanks for understanding.”
Hart has said she remained silent about the case for months out of concern for her safety and a reluctance to “politicizing the matter.” After the dramatic turn of events in the sentencing phase of the case, Hart made a bold defense for the conduct and actions of the four former prosecutors.
“I want to stand up for Aaron Zelinsky, Adam Jed, Michael Marando, and Jonathan Kravis – the prosecutors on the Roger Stone trial,” Hart posted. “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.”
Hart, formerly a teacher, attorney and CEO of the Memphis Urban League, presently serves as a senior program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. She leads policy and advocates grant making for “Civil Rights & Equity Organizations.”
Prosecutors recommended that Stone be sentenced seven to nine years after being convicted last year on seven charges that came out of the Robert Mueller investigation. The charges included lying to Congress and witness tampering.
After a “revised” sentencing recommendation was filed Tuesday, federal prosecutors asked for “far less” time in prison for Stone. The new recommendation did not specify a range of time, and Trump would not rule out a full pardon.
Hart is an Aspen Institute Rodel Fellow in Public Leadership. She holds a bachelors degree in education from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; an MBA from Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Ga., and a JD from the Cecil B. Humphreys School of Law at the University of Memphis.