This judge should not be allowed to do this…
A federal judge on Tuesday prohibited Roger Stone from communicating through Instagram, Twitter or Facebook until after his trial after months of social media postings that the judge said violated a gag order she had imposed to prevent prejudicing potential jurors.
The new order claims Stone is unable to post anything on social media sites, extending to the earlier gag order that prohibited him discussing his case or its participants in the media or public settings.
Stone, a longtime confidant of President Trump, was previously rebuked by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson for public statements attacking his indictment, the conduct of the FBI, intelligence agencies and government officials including former special counsel Robert S. Mueller.
Jackson did not explain how she would enforce the tighter order, but said she could hold a hearing to find Stone in contempt of court later. She said holding such a hearing now would waste both sides’ resources and the court’s, and might spread the prejudicial pretrial publicity she is trying to prevent.
Recently Jackson read aloud social postings by Stone, that referred to his case. She recited that litany after noting she already had told him several times in court about his postings that criticized Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. One such incendiary post prompted the Feb. 21 gag order, his posting of a photograph of the judge’s face next to what appeared to be gun-sight crosshairs.
“Mr. Stone, what am I supposed to do with you?” Jackson said “I find that he is in violation of his conditions of release and media communication order.”
Stone has pleaded not guilty to charges of lying about his efforts to gather information about Democratic Party emails hacked and leaked by Russian operatives in 2016.
Stone was in court Tuesday for a regularly scheduled hearing on a request from his lawyers to suppress evidence they argued was gathered through a flawed search warrant underpinned by what the defense says was second-hand unreliable information.
Prosecutors led by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Kravis had filed a motion with the court requesting a hearing, arguing Stone’s posts breached an order that he not comment “in the media or in public settings about the Special Counsel’s investigation or this case or any of the participants in the investigation or the case.”
Jackson said in court that her order was “clear as day,” before reading from some of Stone’s vitriolic and profane social media attacks.
She said postings in Stone’s Instagram account included photos of commentators referring to the “Russia Hoax” and claiming Stone’s defense has exposed “the ‘intelligence community’s’ betrayal of their responsibilities” and revealed “deeply disturbing lessons about the level of corruption at the top levels of the agencies charged with protecting us from external threats.”
Stone’s attorney Bruce Rogow had called the court gag order, which he had helped draft, “overbroad,” and argued that Stone should not be prevented from commenting about the media, court filings, or U.S. officials in general.
Above all, Rogow said, Stone’s social media following was minimal. He argued, “The whole theory of any kind of restraint on a person’s ability to speak in this kind of situation has to do with whether it will affect a fair trial. None of these things are the kind of thing that have any reasonable basis for affecting a fair trial.”
“I am sorry the court is offended by these things and thinks they violate the court’s order. I understand how one can look at them and come to the conclusion and find they’re at the line or across the line,” Rogow acknowledged, adding, “But Mr. Stone has tried to hew to that line.
Jackson responded sternly Tuesday before expanding her order that, “There’s some added verbiage there. I don’t think recognizing or determining a line has been crossed has to do with whether a person is offended.”
Kravis said the prosecutors were not asking that Stone be jailed or face any particular sanction, explaining that prosecutors were most interested in “protecting the jury pool and protecting the fair trial right” going forward, not “punishing the defendant’s past conduct.”
Jackson said the clarity of her Feb. 21 order was “undisputed” but it was not a week before Stone texted about Cohen, a potential witness in the case. She said that came as his lawyers dissembled and Stone withheld information on the stand in her court about the publication of a book by Stone about the investigation.