Ex-Trump adviser Roger Stone slapped with sweeping gag order following Instagram post
Photo showed judge next to what appeared to be the crosshairs of a gun
A visibly angry judge has imposed a sweeping gag order against Roger Stone after the former political adviser to U.S. President Donald Trump told a court Thursday he had abused instructions not to speak about criminal charges against him in the Russian election interference probe when he posted an Instagram photo of the judge next to what appeared to be the crosshairs of a gun.
U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson told Stone he cannot speak publicly about the case, address it on social media or comment indirectly on it through surrogates. If the order is violated again, Stone will be thrown in jail, Jackson said.
"I abused the order," Stone told the judge during a hearing to examine whether he should be sanctioned. "I am kicking myself over my own stupidity."
"Your honour, I can only beseech you to give me a second chance," Stone said. "Forgive me the trespass."
In a tense court hearing, Jackson said Stone's apology and explanations for why he posted a photo of her next to the image of the crosshairs of a gun on his Instagram account were not credible.
"Thank you, but the apology rings quite hollow," she told Stone.
"What all of this means, Mr. Stone, is that any violation of this order will be a basis for revoking your bond and detaining you pending trial. So I want to be clear —today I gave you a second chance. But this is not baseball. There will not be a third chance."
Stone has pleaded not guilty to charges of making false statements to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election. Mueller is also investigating possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Moscow officials.
Stone claims he didn't realize photo had crosshairs
Trump denies collusion and Russia denies U.S. allegations it interfered to undermine the American democratic process.
Since his arrest in January, Stone has been free on a $250,000 US bond with court permission to travel to certain U.S. cities.
Last week, Jackson prohibited Stone or his attorneys from speaking with the news media or making statements near the federal courthouse about the case, in order to reduce the risk of tainting the jury pool and harming his right to a fair trial.
Stone was still allowed to discuss the case away from the courthouse.
"How hard was it to come up with a photo that didn't have the crosshairs in the corner?" Jackson asked Stone.
Stone said he had asked a volunteer to provide a photo and said he did not review it ahead of time.
"I didn't even recognize it was crosshairs ... until it was brought to my attention by a reporter," Stone said at the hearing.
Stone's lawyer, Bruce Rogow, said his client did not violate the gag order in the case or his conditions of release.
Prosecutor Jonathan Kravis, however, called on the judge to put tighter restrictions on Stone's communications, saying his testimony "was not credible."