A Key Witness Against Roger Stone Says William Barr Twisted His Words

Randy Credico still says Stone threatened him. It still matters.

Randy Credico with his dog Bianca and his attorney on September 7. 2019.Drew Angerer/Getty Images

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Randy Credico says he hasn’t slept at home in more than two years. The comedian and activist has been laying low, somewhere in New York, since proclaiming publicly in early 2018 that longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone lied in congressional testimony in October 2017 by claiming Credico was Stone’s intermediary to WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential campaign. Credico says he fears verbal attacks by Stone and his associates, along with the president’s denunciations of Stone’s prosecution could cause Trump fans to target him. “There are a lot of sleeper cells out there in red hats toting guns,” Credico says. 

Credico has been saying stuff like that since the spring of 2018. His worries started when Stone sent him a slew of vitriolic messages that prosecutors later successfully argued amounted to an intimidation effort aimed at preventing Credico from talking about Stone to congressional investigators or the FBI. “Prepare to die cock sucker,” Stone wrote in one. In another, Stone said he would take Credico’s dog, Bianca, “away from you.” 

Astonishingly, these idiotic emails now factor in a controversy over Attorney General William Barr’s politicization of the Justice Department. Credico testified against Stone in a trial last fall that resulted in Stone’s conviction on five counts of making false statements to lawmakers, obstruction of Congress, and witness tampering. Attention to Credico’s testimony increased in February, when prosecutors in the case recommended Stone receive seven to nine years in prison. The prosecutors cited Stone’s emails to apply a guideline that imposes longer sentences for offenders who threaten witnesses with violence.

Responding to news reports on the prosecutors’ recommendation, Trump, in a 1:48 a.m. tweet on February 11, called the proposed punishment “horrible and very unfair.” Later that day, at the behest of Barr, who claims he was not influenced by Trump’s tweet, Justice Department officials overrode the front-line prosecutors’ original recommendation. In a new memo that said Stone should receive a shorter sentence, these officials argued that Stone had not really threatened Credico, pointing to a letter Credico had sent the judge in the case seeking leniency for Stone. “I never in any way felt that Stone himself posed a direct physical threat to me or my dog,” Credico wrote.

On February 20, District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson sentenced Stone to just over three years in prison. Stone, who is 67, is now arguing for a delay in the start of his sentence due to the risk of the coronavirus.

On Wednesday, Aaron Zelinsky, a lead prosecutor in the Stone case, told the House Judiciary Committee that Barr’s intervention was politically-driven, an intervention based on Stone’s relationship with Trump. Zelinsky said the prosecutors’ jobs were threatened over the sentence. “We were pressured to say that Mr. Credico had no concerns and had no worries as a result of Mr. Stone’s conduct,” he said.

Zelinsky said federal sentencing guidelines cite the threat of violence, not the likelihood of it being carried out, as a cause for tougher sentences. And he noted that Credico had said in grand jury testimony that he was concerned Stone would incite violence against him. That justified the recommendation for a longer sentence, the prosecutor testified. 

I first reported on Stone’s “Prepare to die” email on May 25, 2018. I asked Credico then how he interpreted Stone’s words. “That was a threat,” Credico responded.

Credico tells me he hasn’t changed his tune since. Credico even says that fear of violence was part of his motivation for writing to Judge Jackson to urge leniency for Stone. “I certainly didn’t want to be the guy who was was totally responsible for putting him in jail,” Credico says, describing his motivation. Credico has spent decades advocating against mandatory sentences in New York. He actually met Stone through that work. And he says his letter reflects his own view, dating to the imprisonment of his father when he was a child, that incarceration should be vastly reduced. “I find it deeply disturbing and cynical for Attorney General Barr to have mischaracterized my letter to Judge Jackson to justify his ominous purging of the Justice Department on behalf of his client Donald Trump,” Credico said in a statement issued after Wednesday’s hearing.

Barr’s campaign for leniency for Stone and other Trump allies contrasts with his push for Justice Department prosecutors to generally seek maximum sentences for criminals. Credico writes: “It is a slap in the face to every other defendant in this country that Roger Stone received special favors and politically-motivated lenient treatment when there are thousands upon thousands of defendants who are not rich, not powerful, not influential and not friends with Donald Trump who receive no special treatment and no leniency whatsoever.”

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You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

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