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It Was an Offer That Was Refused: Judge Won’t Let Prosecutors Play Godfather II Scene at Roger Stone Trial


A federal judge on Monday ruled that prosecutors will not be permitted to show a clip from the classic 1974 mob film The Godfather Part II in the upcoming criminal trial of former presidential advisor Roger Stone.

In an order from U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, the Court denied the government’s request to play an excerpt from the film, reasoning that prejudicial effect of showing it to the jury would outweigh the tape’s probative value.  Judge Jackson will allow the government, however, to introduce a transcript of the scene into evidence, which the jury will read.

As previously reported by Law&Crime, prosecutors in July filed a motion with the court seeking to show a four-minute clip from the film to jurors in order to help jurors understand Stone’s cryptic text messages to radio host Randy Credico prior to Credico’s testimony before the House Intelligence Committee.  The government argued that the scene would provide “important context for understanding Stone’s references—including what Stone intended to communicate to the witness and how Stone would have understood the witness’s likely understanding of those messages.”

The excerpt the government intended to show to show at trial depicted the character Frank Pentangeli, a member of the mafia who during the film lies to a Senate committee tasked with investigating organized crime. This is why the government wanted to play the clip:

Frank Pentangeli is a character from the movie The Godfather Part II. In the movie, Pentangeli appears to testify before a congressional committee investigating organized crime. At the beginning of the hearing, Michael Corleone, the organized crime figure whom Pentangeli is about to implicate in his testimony, enters the hearing room accompanied by Pentangeli’s brother. In the film, Pentangeli sees the two men enter the hearing room. In the next scene, a member of Congress states that Pentangeli’s anticipated testimony can “corroborate our charges on enough counts for this committee to recommend a charge of perjury against Michael Corleone.”

Pentangeli is then asked a question about Corleone’s involvement in organized crime. Pentangeli looks behind him, sees Corleone and his brother sitting together, and then claims not to know anything about organized crime. In a dramatic moment, Pentangeli is asked a question about Michael Corleone’s connections to organized crime, and answers, “I don’t know nothing about that. Oh—I was in the olive oil business with his father but that was a long time ago.” Pentangeli then claims that he fabricated his prior testimony regarding Corleone: ‘I kept saying Michael Corleone did this, Michael Corleone did that, so I said, yeah, sure.”

Prosecutors allege that Stone, who is facing charges of lying to Congress and witness tampering, lied when he testified before the House Intelligence Committee regarding his communications with Wikileaks and Credico. In order to make sure their stories aligned, Stone allegedly encouraged Credico to repeat the same false testimony during his deposition in front of the Committee. Stone’s encouragement allegedly occurred in several ways, one of which was a text message that read “Start practicing your Pantagele [sic],” a reference to the character from the film.

Stone faces seven counts, including obstruction of an official proceeding, five counts of making false statements, and one count of witness tampering. He has pleaded not guilty and is currently free on bond. His trial is set to begin on November 5 in the District of Columbia.

[image via bloomberg screengrab]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.