Amy Berman Jackson, federal judge, tightens gag order on Roger Stone

February 21, 2019 GMT

A federal judge Thursday banned longtime Trump confidante Roger Stone from speaking publicly about his case after he posted an Instagram photo of her next to what appears to be a gun’s crosshairs.

“The privilege, the liberty he was afforded was promptly abused,” said U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson admonishing the 66-year-old GOP political operative.

The order bans Mr. Stone from speaking about the case or individuals involved with it all forms of media, including print, television, radio and social media. Mr. Stone can continue to raise funds and maintain his innocence, Judge Jackson said.

If Mr. Stone violates the order, Judge Jackson said she will revoke his bail, sending him to jail before his trial.

“This is not baseball,” she said. “There will not be a third chance.”

The decision is a major blow for Mr. Stone, who has relished the media attention associated with his case. He has done a flurry of media appearances since his arrest last month on charges of lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstruction of justice.

Judge Jackson’s order came just moments after Mr. Stone, surprisingly, took the stand on his own behalf. He apologized profusely to the judge, but also at times changed his story and contradicted himself.

“I’m hurtfully sorry for own stupidity,” Mr. Stone said under oath. “I am kicking myself, not as hard as my wife is kicking me.”

Later, Mr. Stone said he had “no rationalization or excuse,” for the post, blaming it on a “momentary lapse of judgment.”

At first Mr. Stone said a volunteer posted the photo, but later told the court a volunteer sent him the image and he posted it himself. He said he couldn’t recall who sent him the image or which volunteers have access to his phone.

Judge Jackson said she didn’t find his defense credible and “he couldn’t keep his story straight on the stand.” She used air quotes to describe his “apology” saying it “rings quite hollow.”

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

Judge Jackson could have also sent Mr. Stone to jail or required him to put up more money to retain his liberty.

On Monday, Mr. Stone shared a picture of Judge Jackson with a crosshair symbol next to her head on his Instagram account. The post’s caption called special counsel Robert Mueller a “Deep State hitman,” and implied Judge Jackson, an Obama appointee, is biased against conservatives because of her decisions in a Benghazi-related case and a criminal case against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.

″#fixisin,” Mr. Stone said in the scathing Internet post.

Shortly after, he replaced the post with another image of Judge Jackson, this time without the crosshairs. He also changed the next about Mr. Mueller. That post was also pulled.

“Mr. Stone recognized the impropriety and had it removed,” his legal team said in a notice of apology filed with the court Monday.

An Instagram statement provided more context. Mr. Stone said the photo was randomly selected and not intended to threaten the judge, adding the image next her head was not crosshairs, but the logo of the organization that originally posted it.

“Any inference that this was meant to threaten the judge or disrespect the court is categorically false,” the statement said.

Judge Jackson slapped Mr. Stone with a gag order earlier this month, warning him that any attempt to draw too much attention to himself could be seen as a violation of his bail. She ordered him not o speak around the federal courthouse, saying it could improperly influence potential jurors.

Mr. Mueller has accused Mr. Stone of making false statements when he testified to a congressional committee in 2017 that he had no communications with Wikileaks, the group that published a trove of emails allegedly stolen by Russian hackers from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Judge Jackson made a similar move last year in the Manafort case, which was also brought by Mr. Mueller. She revoked Manafort’s home release bail after Mr. Mueller accused him of witness tampering. Manafort is now awaiting sentencing after being convicted of and pleading guilty to separate, but related charges in Washington, D.C. and Virginia.