Key witness asks judge not to send Roger Stone to prison

The key witness against President Trump’s former confidant and political mentor Roger Stone has written a highly unusual letter to a federal judge asking her not to sentence Stone to prison.

The witness, Randy Credico, a left-wing activist, comedian and radio talk show host, and a one-time friend of Stone whose testimony was crucial to the government’s case, told U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson that he had testimony that might have helped Stone’s defense, but he wasn’t asked about it at the trial.

In charges brought by special counsel Robert Mueller, Stone was convicted in November on seven counts of lying to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering relating to his efforts to find out — and report to the Trump campaign — what documents WikiLeaks was planning to release during the closing weeks of the  2016 presidential campaign. He is due to be sentenced by Berman on Feb. 20 and is theoretically facing more than 50 years in prison, although as a first-time convicted felon he is likely to get far less than that. 

Randy Credico, a New York radio host and associate of Roger Stone, walks outside federal court in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Sept. 7, 2018. (Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The witness-tampering charge, which carries the most serious penalty, was based on threatening text messages Stone sent to Credico warning him not to be a “rat” or a “stoolie.”

But Credico is asking Jackson not to incarcerate him at all, saying he never actually felt threatened by Stone. 

“I am writing to respectfully yet fervently implore you not to send Roger Stone to prison when he is sentenced before your Honor,” Credico wrote in a letter that was delivered to Judge Jackson on Wednesday and was also sent to Stone’s lawyers and federal prosecutors. A copy of the letter was also shared with Yahoo News. 

Former advisor to U.S. President Donald Trump, Roger Stone, leaves the E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse after being found guilty of obstructing a congressional investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election on November 15, 2019 in Washington, DC. Stone faced seven felony charges and was found guilty on all counts. (Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

“Roger Stone certainly rubs a lot of people the wrong way, particularly those on the receiving end of his wee hour low brow character attacks,” Credico added. “Stone enjoys playing adolescent mind games and pulling off juvenile stunts, gags and pranks. He shamelessly invents and promotes outlandish and invidious conspiracy tales.”

But, Credico wrote, “the bottom line is Mr. Stone, at his core, is an insecure person who craves and recklessly pursues attention. ... Prison is no remedy.”

“It’s  one of the most unusual sentencing letters I’ve ever been involved in crafting,” said Martin Stolar, a veteran criminal defense lawyer who represents Credico and helped him write the letter. “This is a rare occasion when a witness for the prosecution comes out and says, the guy I helped convict shouldn’t go to prison.” 

It also buoyed Stone’s lawyers’ efforts to keep their client, a 67-year-old self-styled dirty trickster, from going to jail. “We are happy with Mr. Credico’s correspondence to the judge,” said Grant Smith, a member of Stone’s legal team. “The letter speaks for itself.” 

Credico spent two days on the witness stand last fall, disputing Stone’s testimony to Congress that he was Stone’s “backchannel” to Julian Assange, the source of confirmation that WikiLeaks was about to release documents that would be damaging to Hillary Clinton. WikiLeaks did, in fact, release such material — emails stolen by Russian military intelligence hackers from the Gmail account of Clinton campaign chair John Podesta — beginning on Oct. 7, 2016. But there is no evidence that either Stone or Credico had inside knowledge of WikiLeaks’ actual plans.  

Credico was also key to the most serious charge against Stone — witness tampering, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. (The five counts of lying to Congress on which Stone was also convicted each carry a maximum sentence of five years. Another count, obstruction of proceeding, has a maximum sentence of eight years.) 

The witness-tampering count was based on menacing messages Stone sent to Credico in April 2018 after the comedian publicly disputed Stone’s claim that he was his secret intermediary to Assange.  

“You are a rat. A stoolie,” he wrote in one email. “Prepare to die [expletive],” Stone wrote in another.  

Stone also appeared to threaten Credico’s service dog, Bianca, saying he would “take that dog away from you.”

New York radio host Randy Credico, with his dog Bianca, walks away from federal court after appearing before Mueller's grand jury Friday, Sept. 7, 2018, in Washington. (Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

Under cross-examination, Credico was asked by one of Stone’s lawyers, Robert Buschel, if he ever thought Stone was going to steal or harm Bianca the dog. Credico answered, “No.” He then added: Stone is a “dog lover. I don’t think he was going to steal my dog. I think he was pretty riled up at that time.”

While standing by his testimony on that and other matters, Credico wrote in his letter to Jackson that he was hoping Stone’s lawyer would follow up with a broader question, asking if he had ever felt threatened by Stone at all. 

“The answer would have been the same,” Credico wrote. “I never in any way felt that Stone himself posed a direct physical threat to me or to my dog. I chalked up his bellicose tirades to ‘Stone being Stone.’ All bark and no bite!” 

It is unclear how legally significant Credico’s point is about not having an opportunity to say he never actually felt threatened by Stone. Michael Zeldin, a veteran former Justice Department prosecutor, noted that the federal statute for witness tampering doesn’t on its face carve out an exception if the witness doesn’t feel intimidated. “Whether Credico subjectively felt threatened is not legally relevant to whether or not Stone intended to intimidate him,” he said. 

However, Zeldin added, Credico’s letter is still noteworthy and could help Stone’s lawyers argue to Jackson next month that their client is “not a Mob figure” who was preparing to kill Credico’s dog or break his kneecaps. “It’s not normal that your star witness writes to the judge saying, ‘I didn’t feel intimidated,’” he said. 

 It also may not have been all that surprising. Despite his break with Stone over the WikiLeaks issue, Credico and Stone had bonded for years over their efforts to strike down New York’s drug laws — a rare case where Stone’s libertarian instincts led him to work with a self-styled radical. On the day Stone was convicted, Credico told Yahoo News he was in tears. 

 “I hate to see the guy go to jail because of me,” Credico said in a phone interview minutes after the verdict. “I feel horrible that this happened. This is not a day to rejoice.” 

After those comments, Stone’s lawyers reached out to him to ask him to write to Jackson, Credico told Yahoo News this week. But he said he already had the letter in the works. In the letter to Judge Jackson, Credico noted that his father spent 10 years in prison and “the mental scars of those years never left my father’s soul.” Having fought for years to get nonviolent offenders released from jail, Credico said: “I don’t want to see my worst enemy go to prison.”

 

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