Roger Stone didn’t get sent to prison today. Not yet at least.
Now the bets are on as to whether the notoriously loquacious Republican dirty trickster will be able to keep his mouth shut long enough to keep it that way until his trial on one count of obstruction of an official proceeding, five counts of false statements — including lying to Congress — and one count of witness tampering in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election.
Strone was back in court today after he posted a photo of Judge Amy Berman Jackson — the justice overseeing his case — with the crosshairs of a rifle scope next to her on Instagram as part of his fundraising efforts for his defense despite being under a limited gag order.
Suffice it to say that Judge Jackson was not amused by the dissembling that Stone and his attorneys attempted in trying to excuse his behavior, but rather than taking the most extreme step of detaining the foppish political operative until his trial, she imposed a more stringent gag order that prohibits Stone from speaking publically about his case or the wider investigation with which it is a part.
The judge declared that it would be “foolhardy” to allow Stone another opportunity to flout her intention of having him remain silent about his prosecution on such significant charges.
“I’m not giving you another chance,” she said. “I have serious doubts whether you’ve learned any lesson at all.”
“Roger Stone knows full well the power of words and the power of symbols,” she said in rejecting Stone’s protestations that he didn’t mean his post to imply a threat. “There’s nothing ambiguous about crosshairs.”
Judge Jackson threatened that she would send Stone to prison to await trial if he violates the gag order in any way between now and the start of his proceedings.
Stone attempted to apologize to the judge as he took the stand in his defense, saying “I am kicking myself over my own stupidity” — something that he could have used to raise a significant sum for his defense if he allowed others to do it for him.
“This was an egregious, stupid error for which I apologize to the court,” the Nixon-tatooed political consultant admitted, while giving contradictory explanations of how the Instagram post was created and posted.
Judge Jackson found Stone’s apology to have little credibility given that he continued to make statements to the press using language similar to that contained in the offending post.
“Thank you, but the apology rings quite hollow,” she said. Based on his subsequent statements and actions, she said, “I don’t find any of the evolving and contradictory explanations credible.”
“The privilege, the liberty he was afforded was promptly abused. You were right about that Mr. Stone. If the conduct of the past weekend is what Mr. Stone would call judicious, it would be foolhardy for the court to take no action and learn what injudicious looks like,” the judge concluded.
With the judge’s order today, Roger Stone is now barred from making any public statements about his case, about the investigation into the Trump campaign’s contact with Russia, or about any of the people participating in the investigation. “Period.”
The only thing that Stone will be allowed to do now is to solicit contributions for his legal defense and continue to claim that he’s innocent of the charges, but otherwise, he’ll have to keep his mouth as shut as tight as Robert Mueller’s lips have been throughout the Russia probe.
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Original reporting by Rachel Weiner . Manuel Roig-Franzia at The Washington Post