- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 14, 2019

As a former colleague from President Trump’s 2016 campaign delivered damning testimony in the perjury trial of right-wing gadfly Roger Stone, the accused sat quietly at the defense table and did something no one expected: He read the Bible.

The sight of Mr. Stone quietly thumbing through the Good Book contrasted sharply with the outlandish persona of the longtime GOP operative whose profane and vulgar texts dominated the prosecution’s case.

Randy Lancaster-Short wasn’t surprised, though. He’s been Mr. Stone’s spiritual adviser for the past two years and handed his friend the Bible, recognizing it was what he needed at that moment when a one-time campaign ally, Rick Gates, threw him under the bus.

“Well, that is something nice you can say about Rick Gates, he got Roger Stone to read the Bible,” Mr. Lancaster-Short said with a laugh.

Federal prosecutors say Mr. Stone impeded a congressional investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. He is accused of witness tampering, obstruction and perjury in a case that is one of the last embers stemming from former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia probe.

If convicted, Mr. Stone, 67, faces more than 20 years in prison. Jurors began deliberations Thursday and will continue to decide his fate Friday.

Mr. Lancaster-Short attended every day of the nearly two-week trial in Washington, sitting in the row reserved for family and eating lunch with the Stone family in the courthouse cafeteria.

The African-American Harvard Divinity School graduate said Mr. Stone’s faith is strong, despite spending decades cultivating a bad-boy image.

“There is a heart there,” Mr. Lancaster-Short said in an exclusive interview with The Washington Times. “He’s got a bark, but sometimes the nicest dog has the loudest bark.”

He’s known the longtime GOP operative since 2016, when they met through a mutual friend.

The unlikely duo of a lifelong religious leader and self-described dirty trickster began discussing politics. But as Mr. Stone’s legal woes mounted, his faith grew, Mr. Lancaster-Short said.

About a dozen FBI agents in riot gear stormed Mr. Stone’s house in a January predawn raid to arrest him. The tactics used by authorities were criticized by some conservatives as excessive force.

“He’s really seeking intervention,” Mr. Lancaster-Short said. “People’s faith ebbs and flows, but imagine if you had 50 armed people with submachine guns at your house. You’d be calling God real fast.”

Mr. Stone, who was raised Catholic, and his family have openly displayed their faith as the trial wears on. They were spotted at Sunday Mass last weekend and Mr. Stone’s wife, Nydia, even posted on Instagram a photo of them in church with a prayer emoji.

Mr. Stone’s wife and daughter sat in court this week with a Bible open in their laps reading the Book of Psalms.

Washington’s political crowd has a difficult time believing Mr. Stone has turned to a higher power.

During the trial, talk-show host Randy Credico testified about years of bullying by Mr. Stone.

Prosecutors said Mr. Stone falsely told Congress Mr. Credico was his connection to WikiLeaks as the organization was pumping out damaging emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Mr. Stone then pressured Mr. Credico to stonewall lawmakers to undermine the Russia investigation, fearing his lies would be exposed, the government has said.

Prosecutors read threatening text messages Mr. Stone sent to his longtime friend. In the messages, some with vulgar language, Mr. Stone called him “a rat” and “a stoolie” and told him to “prepare to die.”

In another text, Mr. Stone threatened to harm Mr. Credico’s dog, although Mr. Credico admitted on the stand that the threat was “hyperbole” he didn’t take seriously.

Mr. Lancaster-Short is quick to acknowledge Mr. Stone’s flaws, noting Jesus’ love for sinners.

“Everyone comes up short in the glory of God,” he said. “There is a really nice psalm about that, ‘Jesus, what a friend of sinners.’”

“When the government comes on you, you lose your house, your money, people shut you off, who else would you turn to? I would rather he turn to God than alcohol or drugs or harming himself,” Mr. Lancaster-Short said.

There is a private side to Mr. Stone that contradicts the outlandish character portrayed in the media, according to his spiritual adviser.

He said Mr. Stone and him were working to draw attention to the issue of human trafficking and other crimes against African-Americans in Haiti.

“Before Roger Stone got into trouble, he was the only person helping. [The criminal case] really hurt us because there were not many people who would listen,” Mr. Lancaster-Short said.

The two also were planning a book about lead poisoning in the water and its impact on the African-American community, according to the preacher.

“Somewhere in there is love for the rest of humanity,” he said.

Mr. Lancaster-Short attends court every day wearing a white religious smock. It draws attention even among the unusual and controversial supporters who have stood with Mr. Stone during the trial.

It’s important that he stands out in the crowd, he told the Times.

“A lot of people think Roger Stone doesn’t have any friends who are black or believe in God,” Mr. Lancaster-Short said. “People forget he worked with black pastors like Al Sharpton and others.”

Other, more polarizing Stone supporters, including alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos and Gavin McInnes, founder of far-right activist group Proud Boys.

“I didn’t know Milo or if I would like him, but whatever you think of Milo, what you see is what you get,” Mr. Lancaster-Short said. “In the clergy, we deal with murders, rapists and white-collar crooks. Why can’t Roger Stone be friends with whomever?”

As a verdict looms for Mr. Stone, his spiritual adviser said he is hoping for an acquittal, calling the charges a waste of taxpayer money on a case the prosecutors didn’t prove.

More than anything, Mr. Lancaster-Short wants people to pray for Mr. Stone.

“That’s a lot of damage to put on one life in a year’s lifetime,” he said. “He’s been uprooted, lost his house, money. They’ve put this stuff on him and people are always going to believe he’s guilty. I hope first and foremost, people pray for him to heal.”

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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