The Justice Department and political operative Roger Stone’s attorneys are in a pre-trial legal battle on whether federal prosecutors can play a clip from The Godfather: Part II at Stone’s upcoming trial.
Stone, who helped launch President Donald Trump’s political career, was arrested earlier this year in connection with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. He’s facing charges of lying to Congress, obstruction of justice and witness tampering.
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In their indictment, federal prosecutors claim that on “multiple occasions,” Stone told a witness, identified as “Person 2,” that he should do a “Frank Pentangeli” before his appearance before the House Intelligence Committee. Pentangeli is a character in the movie who testifies before a congressional committee and claims to not know critical information “that he does in fact know,” prosecutors pointed out.
“Person 2” has been widely identified as radio personality Randy Credico.
In a filing in the case on Thursday, prosecutors urged Judge Amy Berman Jackson to let them show a short clip of the scene, but Stone’s legal team has objected.
“That scene played a direct part in the very obstructive acts charged in this case,” U.S. Attorney Jesse Liu wrote in a filing. “The question is not just how Person 2 interpreted Stone’s references to the scene, but what Stone intended by them. The evidence of Stone’s intent when referencing this scene is not limited to Person 2’s subjective understanding or recollections but also includes the scene itself, where a congressional witness succumbs to pressure and speaks the lines that Stone quoted to Person 2.”
Stone’s legal team doesn’t want the scene admitted into the trial, arguing that it would prejudice jurors.
Jackson had tried to leave it to the two sides to try to resolve the issue, but they were unable to come to an agreement. According to federal prosecutors, Stone’s legal team was adamant that the only reference to the scene should come during the testimony of “Person 2,” in his understanding of what Stone meant in bringing up the movie character.
Prosecutors, though, believe that “playing the scene itself also avoids a witness — or witnesses — having to characterize aspects of the scene, including dialogue, expressions, actions, and camera work, that convey meaning.”
The trial is scheduled to begin on November 4.
Francis Ford Coppola, the director of The Godfather films, told MSNBC’s Ari Melber this week that the clip should be allowed in the trial “if it is relevant to the case.”
“The Godfather has become part of the culture,” the Oscar-winning filmmaker said. “From my point of view, anyone who would take stuff from a fictional gangster picture and put it in real life, that is not behavior … I would recommend.”
He added: “The Godfather is kind of a textbook of saying one thing and meaning another. … It’s intimidation.”
The government’s latest arguments in the case were first reported in Politico.