Former Ald. Bernie Stone testified Thursday that he was scared he’d been poisoned by anthrax when he opened a threatening letter sent to his ward office that was packed with white powder.
Stone, a Chicago alderman from 1973 to 2011, took the stand in federal court to give evidence against River Forest loner Ron Haddad, a delusional conspiracy theorist who allegedly sent nearly 30 similar death threats to Chicago politicians and oil executives.
“It popped open and powder got out and got all over me,” Stone, 86, told jurors of the November 2007 incident. “I was scared.
“It was at the same time that a number of incidents were happening with officials, particularly in Washington D.C., and we were worried about anthrax.”
Though the powder turned out to be harmless, Stone said he had to wait while a Chicago Fire Department Hazmat team gave the all clear.
“We were all upset,” he said of his staff, who were also in the room when he opened the anonymous letter.
Though the letter was anonymous and did not have Haddad’s fingerprints or DNA on them, prosecutors say disturbing emails the 38-year-old Haddad wrote in the bedroom of his parents’ home used language that was “almost identical” to the threatening letters sent to Stone and other political leaders.
Some of those emails — shown to jurors Wednesday — contain sections in which Haddad gleefully described how he’d be “100 percent justified” if he carried out a “wonderfully bloody home invasion” in which he attacked the family of an oil executive, “perhaps knifing one of their small children to the wall.”
Under cross examination from Haddad’s attorney Andrea Gambino, Stone acknowledged he had “no personal knowledge” who sent the letter.
And in an attempt to show jurors that anyone could have written the letters, Gambino asked Stone about a series of political controversies that the letter referred to, including the city’s controversial parking meter deal.
Stone acknowledged that the parking meter deal “became very controversial.”
Stone — for a time the second longest serving member of the city council — chuckled when he was then asked if he’d ever heard of the “Daley Machine,” another phrase used in the letter.
“Yeah, of course,” he said, explaining to jurors who Richard J. Daley was.
Later in the trial, the second Mayor Daley’s nephew, William Daley Jr., is also expected to testify that he received a threatening letter.
Most of the letters were opened by personal assistants and mail room staff, not by the executives and politicians to whom they were addressed, prosecutors say