Prosecutors Have Accused Roger Stone Of Violating A Judge’s Gag Order By Instagramming About His Case
The government alerted the judge to recent posts by Stone on Instagram and Facebook, arguing they violate the court’s order that he not comment on his case.
WASHINGTON — Federal prosecutors on Thursday accused Roger Stone of violating a judge’s order that he not comment publicly about his case, pointing to posts by Stone this summer on Instagram and Facebook that highlight arguments raised by his lawyers.
Stone has been barred from talking about his case, or former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, since US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson imposed a gag order Feb. 21. She originally gave Stone leeway to speak with reporters and comment on social media, but took a harder-line approach after Stone posted a photo of the judge on Instagram with what appeared to be a crosshairs symbol. Stone had argued it wasn’t his intent to threaten the judge, and it was just the logo of the website he got the photo from, but she was unmoved.
In a court filing Thursday, prosecutors highlighted social media posts by Stone on June 18 and 19 that they contend run afoul of Jackson’s order. One Instagram post screenshotted an article about a recent court filing from Stone’s lawyers with the caption, “But where is the @NYTimes? @washingtonpost ? @WSJ? @CNN?”
Stone is a prolific poster on Instagram and Facebook. Jackson’s order allowed him to proclaim his innocence and ask for donations to support his legal defense, but nothing more. Prosecutors argued that the latest posts were an example of a “strategy of attacking others” and “fanning of the flames” that the judge addressed when she imposed her order.
“What’s more, Stone’s posts appear calculated to generate media coverage of information that is not relevant to this case but that could prejudice potential jurors,” prosecutors wrote.
The government also wrote in a footnote that these were not the first statements that they believed violated the judge’s order, but that they had decided to bring up the issue now because Stone appeared to be explicitly trying to convince news outlets “to publish information that is not relevant to, but may prejudice, this case.”
Stone and one of his lawyers did not immediately return a request for comment.
Stone is charged with lying to Congress about his contacts with WikiLeaks during the 2016 election and trying to tamper with witnesses. He faces one count of obstructing Congress, five counts of making false statements to Congress, and one count of witness tampering. He faces up to 20 years in prison on the tampering count and up to five years in prison for each of the other charges. He has pleaded not guilty.
Stone is free pending his trial — which is scheduled to start in November — but is subject to certain conditions as part of his pretrial release. Those conditions include Jackson’s media contacts order, which bars Stone himself from talking about his case and Mueller’s investigation, and also prohibits him from indirectly commenting by having “surrogates, family members, spokespersons, representatives, or volunteers” speak on his behalf.
“The prohibition includes, but is not limited to, statements made about the case through the following means: radio broadcasts; interviews on television, on the radio, with print reporters, or on internet based media; press releases or press conferences; blogs or letters to the editor; and posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other form of social media,” the judge’s order said.
Prosecutors asked the judge Thursday to consider whether she should change Stone’s release conditions or the media contacts order “to prevent further actions that risk prejudice to these proceedings,” but didn’t specify what exactly they thought she should do.
At the hearing in February, Jackson warned Stone that, unlike in baseball, “there will be no third chance.”
Stone found himself potentially back in trouble with the judge soon after that hearing, though, when his lawyers revealed that he had a book coming out — a rerelease of a book he’d first published in 2017 — that included language that they conceded might run afoul of the gag order. Stone had written a new introduction for the book in which he criticized the special counsel’s investigation and called Mueller “crooked.” His lawyers argued he wasn’t in contempt because the book had been finished and published weeks before the gag order.
Jackson ordered Stone to explain the timing of the book and what he was doing to comply with her gag order. She said the fact that he had turned in his draft before her gag order was issued did not fix the problem. Stone’s lawyers filed a written submission with the court March 11, apologizing for confusion about the timeline of the book.
“There was/is no intention to hide anything. The new introduction, post February 21, 2019, presented a question we tried, obviously clumsily, to address. Having been scolded, we seek only to defend Mr. Stone and move ahead without further ado,” they wrote.
The judge ultimately didn’t take any steps to change Stone’s release conditions as a result of the book, however.
The Roger Stone posts highlighted by prosecutors were from June. A previous version of this story misstated the month.