A federal judge in Washington has placed a gag order on Roger Stone days after the longtime Trump confidant and ally posted a photo on Instagram of the judge’s head next to what appeared to be the crosshair of a gun.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson did not go as far as revoking bail for Stone, who is out on $250,000 bond. But her order Thursday shushes Stone, a garrulous Republican operative who’s spent the days since his January indictment proclaiming his innocence and publicly lambasting the special counsel, and replaces a narrowly tailored media contact order she placed in the case.
Speaking from the bench, an irate Jackson laced into Stone, his previous apology to the court, and the “evolving” testimony and contradictory statements he gave during Thursday’s hearing. Ultimately, Jackson said she was concerned Stone chose to use his public platform in a way that could “incite” others.
“Mr. Stone fully understands the power of words and the power of symbols and there’s nothing ambiguous about crosshairs,” Jackson said.
Addressing an apology Stone and his attorneys filed with the court, Jackson described how Stone continued to defend the Instagram post in media interviews, even after removing the posting. That, she said, made it apparent that it was his lawyers who were behind the apologetic filing. “So, thank you, but the apology rings quite hollow,” she said.
Jackson’s order means Stone cannot speak publicly about the investigation, the case, or any other participant in either. She barred him from participating in interviews, press conferences or releases, or social media posts, but said he would be permitted to solicit donations for his legal defense fund.
Jackson’s comments came after Stone took the witness stand and apologized multiple times. Stone claimed responsibility for the post. While he said he could not offer any excuse for it, he believed the posting resulted from “the extreme stress” of his circumstances, including emotional stress and “acute financial stress.”
Stone said he could only ask for a second chance. “It was a stupid, egregious mistake,” he said.
But Jackson grew frustrated during his nearly 50-minute testimony.
Stone, sitting on the witness stand, said he did not select the image himself—only that he reviewed and posted it—and that he was provided with multiple images of Jackson. Stone said he did not know how, exactly, the image came to be in his possession, but described having a team of volunteers who had access to his phone.
“Do you know how to do a Google search?” Jackson asked at one point. “How hard was it to come up with a photograph that didn’t have crosshairs in the corner?”
Stone also said he did not initially believe the symbol near Jackson’s head was a crosshair, but that it was instead an organization’s logo, or a Celtic or occult symbol. Jackson said the image being a logo and crosshair weren’t “mutually exclusive.”
Jackson also attempted to zero in on whether Stone was genuine in his apology. She pressed Stone about comments he made to right-wing conspiracy outlet InfoWars after he removed the Instagram post, in which Stone complained the controversy over the post was another example of the media making him a target. “That’s very different than saying it was a terrible, horrible lapse in judgment for which I’m deeply sorry,” Jackson said.
After Jackson pressed Stone on whether he indeed made that comment, Stone acknowledged he did.
Stone’s attorney, Bruce Rogow, had argued Jackson’s media contact order did not need to be modified. “Mr. Stone should have another opportunity to comply,” Rogow said. If she were to craft an order for Stone, he said, Jackson could make clear that Stone shouldn’t be talking about the court, the special counsel, or impugning the integrity of the court.
Jonathan Kravis, an assistant U.S. attorney in D.C., said the facts warranted a “further restriction on extrajudicial statements,” calling Stone’s testimony “not credible.”
Kravis said Stone’s post included a caption that amounted to an “attack on the integrity of this proceeding and this forum” and that he continued to “amplify that message” in media interviews that came after he deleted the post and caption.
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. Prosecutors working under special counsel Robert Mueller III and the U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C., Jessie Liu, say Stone lied to conceal efforts he and Trump campaign officials made in 2016 to get information from Wikileaks about the release of hacked Democratic Party emails.
After Stone was indicted in January, Jackson placed a limited order that prohibited Stone from making public statements near the courthouse that would “pose a substantial likelihood of material prejudice to this case.” But he was otherwise allowed to speak freely with the media.
The judge summoned Stone and his lawyers to court Thursday after Stone posted a photo on Instagram, which showed Jackson’s face next to a crosshair. The post also included a caption that said Jackson, an Obama appointee, would oversee a “show trial” against Stone.
“#fixisin,” the caption said, before linking to a Web page for Stone’s legal defense fund. The post was removed, but not before it caught social media attention and made headlines. Stone reposted the image of Jackson—without the crosshairs—before removing that photo as well.
In a notice filed with the court Monday, Stone and his attorneys apologized for his Instagram post. “I had no intention of disrespecting the Court and humbly apologize to the Court for the transgression,” Stone said in the filing.
This isn’t the first time Jackson has quieted parties in a special counsel case. She issued a gag order in November 2017 in the case of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and his then co-defendant Rick Gates. The order barred the parties and attorneys from “making statements to the media or in public settings that pose a substantial likelihood of material prejudice to the case.”
She sent Manafort to jail this past summer after prosecutors accused him of tampering with potential witnesses while he was out on bond. She had already put him on notice for helping ghostwrite an op-ed for an English newspaper in Ukraine, called the Kyiv Post.
Stone is represented by Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based attorneys Rogow, Grant Smith of StrategySmith, and Robert Buschel of Buschel & Gibbons. He also has a Washington, D.C.-based attorney, L. Peter Farkas of Halloran Farkas + Kittila.