A New York man has been sentenced to 18 months in prison after threatening to kill a federal judge over his handling of the criminal case against Michael Flynn, who served a very brief stint as the first national security adviser to President Donald Trump.
Frank Caporusso, 52, was arrested in August 2020 and admitted to leaving a death threat on the office voicemail of U.S. District Court Judge for the District of Columbia Emmet Sullivan in May 2020 following the Justice Department’s decision to drop the false-statement case Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office filed against Flynn in 2017.
Flynn was forced to resign as national security adviser just 24 days into Trump’s term after it emerged that he’d had possibly improper contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States before being sworn in. Interviewed several times by the FBI about those contacts, Flynn would later be charged with lying to the FBI in those interviews. Although he entered a guilty plea to the charge as early as December 2017, after he began cooperating with the Mueller investigation he still had not been sentenced by May 2020 when the Department of Justice moved to drop the charges. Sullivan was in the process of deciding whether to allow the charges to be dropped when Caporusso issued his threats.
Caporusso pleaded guilty to one count of Influencing, Impeding, or retaliating against a federal official by threat and was sentenced in court on Monday, July 19. During the trial, the voicemail was played, showing that not only did Caporusso threaten the judge but his staff as well.
“We are trained military people,” Caporusso told Sullivan according to a transcript. “We will be on rooftops. You will not be safe. A hot piece of lead will cut through your skull… Back out of this bulls**t before it’s too late, or we’ll start cutting down your staff. This is not a threat. This is a promise.”
The 74-year-old Sullivan told the court that the voicemail “shocked” and “terrified” him and Caporusso admitted to feeling “shocked and embarrassed” after the first time he heard the recording.
The incident’s effects on Sullivan were detailed in a witness statement from him, which was read in court. In the message, the judge admitted to feeling “fear now” and said that following the threat he’d taken “unprecedented measures” to protect himself and his family. “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.”
Caporusso’s lawyer said that his client was not of clear mind when he made the call due to a drinking and opioid addiction, adding “He was also under an enormous amount of stress from his job.”
“I was not thinking well or doing well at that time,” Caporusso said to the court. “I shudder to think that those words could actually come from me. … I humbly apologize to Judge Sullivan, his staff, and their families.”
The 18-month sentence was handed down in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by Judge Trevor McFadden, a Donald Trump appointee, who said that McFadden’s assurance that Caporusso’s felt sincere remorse and the lack of evidence that Caporusso intended to carry out the threat, among other mitigating factors, played a part in his decision to lessen the sentence.
In addition to jail time, Caporusso was also sentenced to two years of supervised release, during which he is not allowed to use alcohol.
Sullivan still had not issued a ruling on the DOJ’s move to drop the charges against Flynn — who remains a prominent and fierce Trump supporter to this day — when the case was rendered moot by a sweeping pardon for “any and all possible offenses” the 45th president issued to his former national security adviser last November.