Ex-Trump adviser Roger Stone slapped with sweeping gag order following Instagram post

U.S. President Donald Trump's former political adviser Roger Stone told a court on Thursday that he had abused a gag order imposed following criminal charges against him in the Russian election interference probe with an Instagram post of the judge next to an image that appeared to show the crosshairs of a gun.

Photo showed judge next to what appeared to be the crosshairs of a gun

Roger 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. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press)

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."

Who is Roger Stone? Facts about the man arrested in U.S. election tampering case: 
U.S. political consultant Roger Stone, a longtime ally of President Donald Trump, was arrested Friday as part of the FBI's investigation. Stone now faces charges of lying to investigators, obstructing justice and witness tampering. 4:07

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.

Although criminal defendants typically shun the media spotlight, the 66-year-old self-proclaimed Republican "dirty trickster" has embraced it and made numerous media appearances since his Jan. 25 arrest.

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.

Just days later, Stone posted a photo of Jackson next to the image that looked like crosshairs. He later took down that version and reposted it without the crosshairs, before taking down the post a second time.

"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."