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Judge: No Godfather clip for Stone trial

POLITICO logo POLITICO 10/21/2019 By Josh Gerstein
Roger Stone wearing a suit and tie walking on a sidewalk: Roger Stone. © Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo Roger Stone.

Jurors at the upcoming trial of GOP political consultant Roger Stone won’t be treated to an in-court screening of a scene from a “Godfather” film that prosecutors wanted to show, the judge overseeing the case ruled Monday.

U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson sided with Stone’s attorneys, who argued that showing the clip from the Mafia-themed 1974 Francis Ford Coppola film “Godfather II” could inflame jurors and unfairly introduce issues extraneous to the lying-to-Congress and witness-tampering charges against Stone.

“The government will not be permitted to introduce the clip itself in its case in chief because the prejudicial effect of the videotape, which includes a number of extraneous matters, outweighs its probative value,” wrote Jackson, an appointee of President Barack Obama.

Jackson’s focus seemed to be on the visual impact of the evidence, however, as she said prosecutors are free to introduce a transcript of the four-minute scene, in which a character known as Frank Pentangeli or Frankie Five Angels backtracks on plans to give Congress incriminating testimony about the Corleone crime family.

The indictment against Stone returned in January alleges that he urged an associate—unnamed in the charges but known to be liberal activist and radio host Roger Credico—to “do a ‘Frank Pentangeli’” and alter his testimony to Congress about dealings the two men during the 2016 election relating to WikiLeaks, its founder Julian Assange and a trove of emails stolen from a top Clinton campaign official.

Stone has been a longtime adviser to President Donald Trump and was an official consultant at the outset of Trump’s last presidential bid, before the two formally parted company in August 2015. However, he continued to advise Trump informally during the remainder of the campaign and was regularly in touch with other campaign aides.

Stone has pleaded not guilty to the seven-felony-count indictment and is free on bond pending his trial, set to open in Washington Nov. 5.

Jackson’s order Monday did not completely close the door on use of the movie clip at the trial. She said that after the jury hears testimony from Credico, and Stone, if he chooses to testify, prosecutors can make another request to play the video if there is reason to do so.

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