Politics

Judge bans Roger Stone from speaking about his prosecution in ongoing Mueller case

Roger Stone arrested by FBI

Roger Stone, President Trump's long-time associate, was arrested by the FBI on January 25, 2019 on charges stemming from the special counsel’s Russia investigation. Stone has denied wrongdoing but was expecting he'd be charged.
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Roger Stone, President Trump's long-time associate, was arrested by the FBI on January 25, 2019 on charges stemming from the special counsel’s Russia investigation. Stone has denied wrongdoing but was expecting he'd be charged.

Roger Stone was banned Thursday from doing what he loves: talking in public.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson summoned President Donald Trump’s former adviser and friend from South Florida to Washington on Thursday, after Stone posted a photo on Instagram with Jackson’s face and crosshairs beside it earlier this week.

Stone had been under a partial gag order after being indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing Russia investigation.

The judge asked Stone to explain why he should remain out of jail after he described his upcoming trial as a “show trial” by an “Obama appointed judge who dismissed the Benghazi charges against Hillary Clinton and incarcerated Paul Manafort prior to his conviction for any crime.” Stone also called Mueller a “deep state hitman.”

Jackson rejected Stone’s request for leniency, agreeing with Mueller’s lawyers that Stone’s actions in recent days amounted to a pattern of speech that could spur others to threaten the safety of jurors and court officers involved in the case.

“As a man who has made communication his forte... Roger Stone fully understands the power of words and the power of symbols,” Jackson said. “There’s nothing ambiguous about crosshairs. Given the business he’s in, once you put something out there it’s out there.”

Any further talk about the upcoming trial in public would further taint the jury pool, Jackson said, and would land Stone in jail.

“I’m not giving you another chance,” she said. “I have serious doubts whether you’ve learned any lesson at all.”

Stone deleted the initial image of Jackson with the crosshairs beside her face, only to repost it without the crosshairs before taking the second image down hours later on Monday.

In a back-and-forth exchange with the judge, Stone said he did not personally select the image himself but that he did authorize the image’s publication. He was unable to say who selected the initial image, noting that his Fort Lauderdale house is “like a headquarters” where people come and go.

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Roger Stone AP File

Stone was also unable to say who, other than him, has access to his social media accounts that posted the photo on Monday. He said the initial crosshairs image was a “Celtic symbol” related to a cult and not the crosshairs of a gun next to the judge’s face.

“Do you know how to do a Google search? Do your volunteers know how to do a Google search?” Berman asked, as she appeared irritated at Stone’s evasive answers. “How hard is it to find a photo that doesn’t have crosshairs?”

Asked about the symbolism in the posting, Stone told the judge: “I don’t know your honor, I’m not into the occult.”

Stone did admit that he personally wrote the caption attached to the image that attacks Mueller and the judge for being appointed by a Democratic president. Stone said Jacob Engels, a Florida-based far-right blogger, and Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the far-right Proud Boys group who sat behind President Donald Trump at a recent speech on Venezuela, have access to his social media accounts. He also said two other men are volunteers, but couldn’t name anyone else who may have selected the image four days ago.

Tarrio was also part of a group of conservative activists who shouted expletives and banged on doors while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was visiting Miami last year to support Democrats running for Congress.

Mueller’s lawyer attempted to show that Stone was not apologetic about the photo because he continued to give media interviews attacking the special counsel after the photo in question was removed.

“We’re not just talking here about the photograph. That text amounted to an attack on the integrity of this forum. That conduct amounts to.. .a desire to manipulate media coverage to gain favorable attention,” U.S. attorney Jonathan Kravis said.

Stone’s lawyer, Bruce Rogow, argued that any court order should narrowly prevent him from disparaging the court or special counsel. Rogow said other forms of speech are necessary for Stone to mount a public defense.

Stone also apologized in a court filing.

“The photograph and comment today was improper and should not have been posted,” Stone wrote in a court document. “I had no intention of disrespecting the Court and humbly apologize to the Court for the transgression.”

Even though his Instagram use earned him another court date, Stone continued to post on his account this week.

“A photo of Judge Jackson on my Instagram account has been misrepresented,” Stone wrote in a text message that he posted to Instagram. “This was a random photo taken from the internet. Any inference that this was meant to somehow threaten the judge or disrespect court is categorically false.”

Stone said one of his “volunteers” chose the photo but said the decision to post the photo online from his phone was his alone. He could not name the volunteer.

Stone, a longtime Republican operative with a flair for dramatic antics and a Richard Nixon tattoo on his back, has vigorously defended himself in public after being indicted by Mueller’s ongoing Russia investigation.

Mueller charged Stone with trying to cover up his conversations with WikiLeaks, an organization that received stolen Democratic Party emails from Russian hackers and released them throughout the 2016 campaign.

Stone pleaded not guilty on Jan. 30 to seven charges of making false statements to Congress and tampering with a witness. He was released on $250,000 bond.

Stone listed his Fort Lauderdale house for rent this week as legal bills mount. He continues to solicit support for his defense fund on social media, and Jackson said he can continue to ask for money without discussing the case.

As the hearing came to a close, the judge asked Stone’s lawyer what it would take to get the media-friendly Stone to stop giving interviews and statements about his upcoming trial.

“What will get him to stop talking other than a court order?” Berman asked.

“You and me telling him to stop talking,” Rogow said.

The plea wasn’t enough, though Jackson didn’t put Stone in jail for now. She cautioned that she will “adjust his environment” if he keeps talking.

“Today I gave you a second chance, but this is not baseball,” Jackson said. “There will not be a third chance.”

Alex Daugherty is the Washington correspondent for the Miami Herald, covering South Florida from the nation’s capital. Previously, he worked as the Washington correspondent for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and for the Herald covering politics in Miami.

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