WASHINGTON — Questioned in court last week about his recent Instagram post featuring a photo of the judge presiding over his case with what resembled a crosshairs symbol, Roger Stone said under oath that a "volunteer" found the image. He insisted he couldn't recall who exactly, though, and struggled to identify the five or six people he said were serving as his volunteers at the time.
The names he offered after being pressed by the prosecutor underscored Stone's ties to the Proud Boys, a far-right, men-only extremist group that describes its members as "Western chauvinist." The four men identified by Stone are all active on social media, and several continued to post about Stone's case after US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson imposed a strict gag order Thursday — an order that limits not only what Stone can say in public and online, but what his surrogates and volunteers can say on his behalf.
Stone identified Enrique Tarrio, Tyler Whyte, Jacob Engels, and Rey Perez as his volunteers. Tarrio is chair of the Proud Boys and last week sat behind President Donald Trump during a speech in Miami wearing a T-shirt that said "Roger Stone Did Nothing Wrong!" Whyte leads a Proud Boys chapter in Florida. Engels has been involved in Proud Boys activities, but says he's a journalist embedded with the group, not a member. Perez identified himself on Facebook as a member of the Proud Boys and was at Stone's house in Florida to tape a podcast over cigars and baked ziti just before before the Instagram post imbroglio.
On Friday, the day after Stone's new gag order took effect, Perez tweeted, "As much as the liberal media want to spin #RogerStoneArrested into evidence of #RussianCollusion , it only shows our innocence and their evil deeds, what a bunch of sore losers." Engels tweeted a hashtag that Stone and his supporters have been using since his arrest: "#RogerStoneDidNothingWrong."
A Twitter account linked to Tarrio's name on the Proud Boys website retweeted a post from the user @CarpeDonktum Thursday night that said, "ROGER STONE DID NOTHING WRONG. SUPPORTING TRUMP IS NOT A CRIME. THE LEFT WANTS US DEAD. THE LEFT WANTS US IN PRISON. THE LEFT WANTS US SILENT."
Jackson's order isn’t a blanket prohibition on anyone posting comments about Stone's case, but it says that Stone can't indirectly comment "by having statements made publicly on his behalf." To the extent his known associates — people he told the judge were doing work for him — continue to go on the attack, it could raise questions about compliance with Jackson's order, even if Stone himself isn't talking.
Engels declined a request to discuss his relationship with Stone, directing BuzzFeed News to an article about him in the Daily Beast titled "Meet Jacob Engels, Roger Stone's Mini-Me." Tarrio, Perez, and Whyte did not return requests for comment.
Stone has embraced the Proud Boys. He's posted photos on Instagram of himself with various chapters. In December, the Proud Boys website posted a video of Stone with Tarrio delivering a message to the group: "Keep the faith. Don't let them wear you down — the globalists, the two-party duopoly, Robert Mueller, the deep state, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Washington Post. They want to wear us down. Never give up the fight. We will prevail."
Although the Proud Boys officially say they aren't white supremacists — their website proclaims that “‘Western chauvinist' includes all races, religions, and sexual preferences" — there is overlap within its member base. The Miami New Times documented racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-LGBT social media posts from Proud Boys members, along with violent misogyny. In October, members of the Proud Boys brawled with far-left "anti-fascist" protesters in New York City.
According to the Daily Beast profile of Engels earlier this month, he first met Stone in 2013 through his work with Young Republicans groups. The two men are close; Engels has come to DC for Stone's appearances. In November, Engels tweeted a photo of himself and Stone at the beach, shirtless, displaying their tattoos — Stone famously has former president Richard Nixon's face in the middle of his back, and Engels has former president Andrew Jackson's face on his right shoulder.
Engels appears on Infowars, and runs a website called the Central Florida Post, which includes a mix of conservative-leaning journalism and articles about movies, television, and pop culture. He's used the site to support Stone — in a Jan. 14 piece noting Stone-related content on Saturday Night Live, Engels concluded with a pitch for Stone's legal defense fund. The day before Stone’s latest court appearance and the new gag order, Stone posted on Instagram directing his supporters to follow Engels “to get the latest updates on my trial and the fake news assault on me #rogerstonedidnothingwrong#trump #maga #freerogerstone.”
Stone appeared in court Thursday to address a now-deleted Feb. 18 Instagram post that featured a photo of Jackson. In the corner of the image, there was a symbol that resembled crosshairs — Stone said he’d thought it was a Celtic occult symbol, and it appeared to be the logo of another website. In the message of the Instagram post, he criticized Jackson for rejecting his bid to get the case assigned to a different judge. He removed it after fielding questions about whether the image was meant as a threat against Jackson.
Stone insisted that wasn't his intent, and his lawyers filed a written apology with the court. At Thursday's hearing, Stone repeatedly apologized to the judge, saying, "I am kicking myself over my stupidity." But Jackson was unimpressed, saying she thought his apology "rings quite hollow." She had previously given Stone leeway to talk about his case, but she imposed a new order barring him from speaking publicly about it or special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.
Jackson made clear that Stone could still solicit donations for his legal defense fund and proclaim his innocence, and so far Stone has done that on Instagram and Facebook. On Friday, he posted a photo on Instagram of himself and his wife walking hand-in-hand outside the federal courthouse in DC, with the message: "Mrs. Stone and I want to thank so many of you for your thoughts and prayers. it is a very challenging and difficult time for us. I need your help to clear my name. Please visit StoneDefenseFund.com."
Shortly after Stone's hearing before Jackson on Thursday, a Twitter account called @MrRogerStone posted a message denouncing the judge's decision as "absurd." The tweet was later deleted, and Stone told BuzzFeed News that he did not run the account and didn't know who did. The account was eventually removed for impersonation, according to Twitter. Stone was banned from Twitter in October 2017 after going on a profanity-laden rant against CNN.
In court last week, Stone didn't share many details about what his volunteers do for him — he told the judge that they perform "a lot of the clerical work" — but he said Engels had access to his Instagram account, Whyte posted to his Facebook account, and that multiple people had access to his phone. In a recent podcast taping with Stone, Perez said he was managing Stone’s social media accounts. Stone said in court that he couldn't remember who he was with or who besides Engels had his phone on the day he posted the Instagram post of Jackson, saying his house was "like a headquarters."
"People come and go. They're all part of the same group," Stone said. "It's a revolving situation."
Ryan Mac contributed reporting to this story.