A New York man who left a graphic demise threat on the voicemail of the federal judge handling the high-profile criminal case against former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn was sentenced Monday to 18 months in prison.
Frank Caporusso, 53, received the sentence during a hearing in federal courtroom where the disturbing content was played aloud at the requirements of the the magistrate who received it last May, Emmet Sullivan.
U.S. District Court Judge Trevor McFadden called the threat “heinous, ” but said later he was “convinced” that Caporusso never actually is projected to carry it out.
Still, McFadden said the threat itself made substantial harm to Sullivan and his staff and heightened the sense of danger felt by many federal judges amid a sharp-worded spike in threats, as well as the shooting attack last year at the home of a federal magistrate in New Jersey. That assault left her son dead and her husband seriously wounded.
“Judicial gowns aren’t bulletproof, ” McFadden said.
McFadden said Caporusso’s threat was particularly outrageous because he specifically discussed plans to kill Sullivan’s staff. McFadden said the law clerks who work with federal judges are typically young lawyers who lack the limited safeties judges have.
“They don’t have security systems in their suites. They don’t have federal marshals guarding them, ” said McFadden. “Your threat was disgraceful and it was calculated to instill a maximum quantity of fear.”
As part of a plea be addressed with attorneys, Caporusso admitted leaving the message on the voicemail of Sullivan’s enclosures last year days after the Justice Department made a surprising move to drop the false-statement case Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office filed against Flynn in 2017.
At the time of the bawl, Sullivan had recently indicated that he wouldn’t immediately lowering the case and wanted a former federal judge to submit debates on why the Justice Department’s filing might not require such a dismissal.
McFadden said it was clear Caporusso’s threat was an attempt to affect Sullivan’s decisions on the Flynn case. “It was intended to subvert the criminal justice system by scare him from a high-profile case, ” McFadden said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Rachel Fletcher described Caporusso’s threat as “frankly chilling.”
Moments earlier, Caporusso’s gravelly voice could be heard as sound recordings played on her laptop near a courtroom microphone.
“We are professionals. We are instructed military people. We will be on rooftops. You will not be safe. A red-hot fragment of lead will cut through your skull. You bastard. You will be killed, and I don’t present a f— who you are, ” Caporusso said in the content left on the line in Sullivan’s enclosures on May 14, 2020. “Back out of this bulls— before it’s too late, or we’ll start cutting down your staff. This is not a threat. This is a promise.”
Caporusso likewise acknowledged that he called Sullivan’s enclosures multiple other occasions on the same day and at least twice the following day.
In a statement Fletcher speak to the court, Sullivan said the threat had a major impact on his life.
“The defendant before you threatened to murder me because he disagreed with my judicial decisions, ” Sullivan said. “I feel fear now even though the defendant is in custody.”
Sullivan said he made major changes to his procedure, dramatically abridging both his social and professional participations. “My sons took certain steps to enhance my protection, ” the magistrate said, without going into details.
Caporusso, clad in an orange jumpsuit from the Central Virginia Regional Jail, rose to address the court toward the end of the hour-long hearing and express “great remorse.” He said he suffered a serious injury last year, became addicted to opioids, then turned to alcohol prior to leaving the threat.
“I was not reasoning well or doing well at that time, ” Caporusso said. “I shudder to think that those words could actually collected from me . … I humbly apologize to Judge Sullivan, his staff members and their families.”
Defense attorney David Benowitz also said that when he and another attorney played the audio of the message for Caporusso, he seemed mashed by what he had done. “He looked like he had been hit over the head with an anvil, ” the defense lawyer said.
Benowitz also argued that Caporusso fell victim to the “supercharged political climate” — an apparent have referred to former President Donald Trump’s frequent public criticism of Sullivan and the overall prosecution against Flynn.
Benowitz asked that Caporusso be sentenced to time served — the nearly 11 months he has spent in pretrial detention since his arrest last-place August. Nonetheless, McFadden said he did not think that was adequate punishment. He sided with the prosecution, which recommended an 18 -month sentence. McFadden also imposed two years of probation.
Under federal prison policies, Caporusso could be out in about four or five months.
Caporusso’s defense induced no attempt to change the venue in the instances or to seek an out-of-town judge, even though McFadden and Sullivan work in the same courthouse on a daily basis — or did prior to the pandemic.
However, McFadden offered a spontaneous confidence during Monday’s hearing that he was not being influenced by any pressure from Sullivan. “To be clear, he and I have never spoken about this case, ” said McFadden. “He is a patriot. He did not deserve this and he certainly does not deserve to live in fear over your actions.”
For his part, Sullivan proposed no specific sentence in the statement he submitted to the court.
After a lag while Flynn’s lawyers prosecuted a petition at an appeals court, Sullivan finally maintained a hearing last-place September on the Justice Department’s unusual motion to dismiss the case against Flynn despite the fact he had already pleaded guilty. The judge’s decision was still pending when Trump issued Flynn a full and unconditional pardon about two weeks after the presidential election last-place November. Sullivan dismissed the example the following month.
One somewhat unusual aspect of the sentencing hearing was that neither Fletcher nor Benowitz referred to Sullivan by call, describing it simply as the magistrate who was the victim in the case, although details of Sullivan’s background in the statement she read stirred his identity unmistakable. Caporusso was the first to mention Sullivan aloud by referencing him in his apology to the court. Then, as he imposed the convict, McFadden also made several references to Sullivan by name.
Read more: politico.com