A New York man who threatened to kill a federal judge presiding over the criminal case of President Donald Trump’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn must spend 18 months in prison, a federal judge ruled on Monday.
“Your threat against Judge Sullivan and his staff was a very serious offense,” U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden told Frank Caporusso, calling Caporusso’s threats an attempt to influence the outcome of a “high-profile case.”
Though that effort failed, McFadden added of the threat: “It was nothing less than an attack on our system of government.”
The one-and-a-half year sentence is the term recommended by the government.
This past April, Caporusso pleaded guilty to leaving a threatening message in a voicemail with chambers for U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan on May 14, 2020.
That was shortly after Judge Sullivan allowed legal experts and outside parties to oppose the Justice Department’s plan to dismiss Flynn’s case. Flynn’s name did not come up explicitly during the sentencing proceedings, but the former Trump adviser’s connection to the case was previously reported and aligns with the chronology. Flynn was ultimately pardoned by Trump.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Rachel Fletcher played the voicemail in court, calling the audio “frankly, chilling.” She added that it also represents part of a pattern of threats against the federal judiciary.
A transcript from that voicemail, which the prosecutor played in court, read:
“We are professionals. We are trained military people. We will be on rooftops. You will not be safe. A hot piece of lead will cut through your skull. You bastard. You will be killed, and I don’t give a fuck who you are. Back out of this bullshit before it’s too late, or we’ll start cutting down your staff. This is not a threat. This is a promise.”
Judge McFadden said those words “had a lasting impact on others.”
“Perhaps more despicably, you threatened his staff,” the judge added.
The young lawyers who staff federal judges’ offices are close to the ages of Caporusso’s children, the judge added.
Choking back tears during his statement, Caporusso began his remarks by saying: “I am here in court today to answer to the law.”
“I am not a man that would harm anyone,” Caporusso said. “I asked myself, ‘How could I have done such a thing?'”
The defense depicted Caporusso as a bad-tempered alcoholic who was struggling with opioid addiction. Caporusso said that does not excuse his actions.
Judge McFadden, a Donald Trump appointee, defended his colleague Judge Sullivan.
“He is a patriot,” McFadden said. “He did not deserve this.”
Earlier this year, Judge Sullivan entered into a semi-retirement role on the federal bench, assuming a senior status that allowed Joe Biden’s administration to fill a vacancy.
In a prepared statement delivered through the prosecutor, Judge Sullivan said the voicemail “shocked” and “terrified” his family. Appointed to judicial posts by both Republican and Democratic presidents over his decades-long career, Sullivan said in his statement that he heard many victim impact statements.
“I never thought that one day, I would write a victim impact statement,” the judge said, through the prosecutor.
Caporusso’s lawyer David Barry Benowitz, from the D.C.-based firm Price Benowitz, depicted his client as a man who was addicted to opioids and battling a drinking problem at the time. He said that Caporusso otherwise led an “exemplary life.”
Judge McFadden emphasized that he did not discuss Caporusso’s case with Judge Sullivan.
[image via CHRIS KLEPONIS/AFP via Getty Images]
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]