A federal judge in Washington, D.C., leaned into the idea of issuing a gag order in the special counsel’s criminal case involving Roger Stone, a longtime Trump confidant and ally, but said she wants the government and Stone’s defense team to file briefs on the issue.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson reminded lawyers Friday that Stone’s case is “a criminal proceeding and not a public relations campaign.” Jackson said she will consider issuing a court order to bar Stone and his attorneys from making public statements that could risk prejudice in the case.
The judge remarked that such an order wouldn’t bar all public commentary. Stone could still discuss “foreign relations, immigration, or Tom Brady” as much as he wanted, she quipped. Prosecutors and Stone’s defense team have until Feb. 8 to file their briefs.
Jackson’s statements came during a half-hour status hearing that mostly dealt with matters of housekeeping. The judge granted a joint motion to designate the case as “complex,” and set a status hearing for March 14. Michael Marando, a prosecutor from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C., floated the possibility of a trial beginning in October.
Jackson hasn’t shied away from issuing gag orders in highly publicized matters. Her comments echoed statements she made in another case arising out of the special counsel probe, when she issued a gag order for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, his then co-defendant Rick Gates, and their attorneys in November 2017.
Jackson established early in that affair that she had little patience for showboating after an attorney for Manafort—Kevin Downing—made public comments deriding the charges as “ridiculous.” In a hearing afterward, Jackson warned: “This is a criminal trial, and it’s not a public relations campaign.”
“I want to make it clear, from this point on, that I expect counsel to do their talking in this courtroom and in their pleadings, and not on courthouse steps,” she said.
Jackson issued an order days later, barring the parties and attorneys involved in the case from “making statements to the media or in public settings that pose a substantial likelihood of material prejudice to the case.”
A gag order might pose a unique challenge for Stone, a garrulous figure who spent the week following his Jan. 25 indictment on a media blitz. He’s proclaimed his innocence in interviews and in Instagram posts alike.
Stone floated the idea of appealing such an order Thursday, in a meandering, 40-minute press conference arranged by right-wing conspiracy website InfoWars. He said he hoped Jackson takes into account that he made a living by “writing and speaking about politics.”
“Obviously, I would adhere to any ruling of the court,” he said. “If they should do that on the other hand, I would also have the right … to appeal. So let’s see what happens.”
Stone is fighting charges that he lied to congressional investigators probing Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, obstructed justice, and tampered with a witness. He pleaded not guilty to a seven-count indictment Tuesday.
Stone’s defense team includes Fort Lauderdale-based attorneys Grant Smith of StrategySmith, Robert Buschel of Buschel & Gibbons, Bruce Rogow, and Tara Campion. A D.C.-based attorney, L. Peter Farkas of Halloran Farkas + Kittila, has also joined Stone’s team.
Buschel identified himself as lead counsel Friday.
The special counsel’s office and prosecutors working under Jessie Liu, the U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C., are jointly handling Stone’s case.
Jackson, an appointee of President Barack Obama, has presided in other cases arising out of the special counsel probe. She previously oversaw the case and sentencing of former Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom associate Alex van der Zwaan, who pleaded guilty to lying to investigators. She is also overseeing the case against Manafort associate W. Samuel Patten, who pleaded guilty in August to acting as an unregistered foreign lobbyist.