Roger Stone: Trump's former advisor banned from posting to social media after violating gag order, judge rules

'I've twice given you the benefit of the doubt,' judge says as she imposes social media ban on former adviser to Donald Trump

Chris Riotta
New York
Tuesday 16 July 2019 19:54
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Roger Stone banned from posting to social media after violating gag order, judge rules

Roger Stone has been barred from posting on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter by a US federal judge after prosecutors said he repeatedly violated a court-imposed gag order.

US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson had imposed the order in February after Mr Stone posted a photo of the judge with what appeared to be cross hairs of a gun.

Defence lawyers said nothing Donald Trump's former adviser and self-proclaimed "dirty trickster" posted on social media ran afoul of the judge’s order or would prevent an unbiased jury from hearing the case.

"I've twice given you the benefit of the doubt. Your lawyer had to ... twist himself into a pretzel to argue that these posts didn't cross the line," the judge said. "The goal has been to draw maximum attention."

The arguments underscored how some of Mr Trump's aides charged in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation have repeatedly tested the limits of the court. While most defendants normally look to avoid the government’s ire, Mr Stone has regularly thumbed his nose at the prosecution with Instagram posts to tens of thousands of followers that denigrate the Russia investigation.

Another defendant, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, was jailed before trial after the same judge found that he had improperly contacted a witness in the case. And George Papadopoulos, another ex-aide, attacked the Mueller probe after his sentencing last year.

At issue Tuesday was whether the outspoken Mr Stone could be further restricted from publicly discussing the case and whether additional conditions — such as a fine — could be imposed ahead of trial. Prosecutors did not seek to have him held in contempt or jailed.

In court Tuesday, Ms Jackson went through Mr Stone’s posts one-by-one with defence lawyer Bruce Rogow to ask if he believed they ran afoul of her order. The posts included screenshots of news coverage calling into question the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia had hacked Democratic email accounts. Another post asked “Who Framed Roger Stone?” a riff on the popular 1980s film, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.”

In each instance, Mr Rogow said the posts did not violate the order. He said the order was so broad that anything beyond saying “Hello, I’m Roger Stone,” could conceivably, and unfairly, be viewed as a violation.

“I understand how one can look at them and come to the conclusion that, yes, they were at the line or crossed the line,” Mr Rogow said. “But Mr Stone has tried to hew to the line.”

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He said Mr Stone was using social media to communicate to others what is happening in the case “but not doing it in a way to infect or affect what the whole underlying reason is for the court order” — to ensure an impartial jury and a fair trial.

But Jackson said another, more basic question was of concern: whether Mr Stone violated her original order.

Additional reporting by AP

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