WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge ordered Roger Stone not to discuss his criminal case with anyone and issued a stinging reprimand Thursday over the longtime Trump confidant’s decision to post a photo on Instagram of the judge with what appeared to be the crosshairs of a gun.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said that Stone would "pose a danger" to others in the case unless she modified the terms of his release to include the gag order.
Stone had taken the witness stand to try to explain his post and apologize to the judge, repeatedly telling her that he had made an egregious and inexcusable mistake.
"Thank you, but the apology rings quite hollow," the judge shot back before instituting the gag order.
The 66-year-old Stone has pleaded not guilty to charges he lied to Congress, engaged in witness tampering and obstructed a congressional investigation into possible coordination between Russia and Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. The charges stem from conversations he had during the 2016 campaign about WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy group that released material stolen from Democratic groups, including Hillary Clinton's campaign.
Stone was arrested last month and has remained free on a $250,000 personal recognizance bond. He is the sixth Trump aide or adviser charged in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, which increasingly appears to be reaching its final stages. Stone has maintained his innocence and blasted Mueller's Trump-Russia investigation as politically motivated.
Last week, the judge issued a limited order that prevented Stone from discussing his case near the courthouse and generally prohibited his lawyers, prosecutors and witnesses from making public comments that could "pose a substantial likelihood" of prejudicing potential jurors. But that order stopped short of imposing a broad ban on public comments.
Stone had been ordered to court Thursday after he posted a photo of Jackson with what appeared to be crosshairs near her head. Stone and his lawyers filed a notice with the court that said they recognized the photo was "improper and should not have been posted."
Stone, a political operative and self-described dirty trickster, later said the photo was "misinterpreted" and that the symbol was actually a logo, not crosshairs of a gun. He said the picture was a "random photo taken from the Internet" and dismissed any suggestion he was trying to threaten the judge.
His lawyers argued that placing any limits on his public comments would infringe his constitutionally protected right to free speech.
Special counsel Mueller’s team has been dwindling in recent weeks, and lawyers from the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington were assigned to Stone’s case from the beginning, which could be an indication that Mueller is planning to hand off the investigation.