Longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone appeared in court Thursday after posting an Instagram photo of Judge Amy Berman Jackson with what appeared to be a crosshairs near her head and text accusing her of conducting a “show trial” on behalf of the “Deep State.” The judge, unmoved by an apology from Stone she said “rings quite hollow” imposed a strict gag order, baring Stone from speaking directly or indirectly about his case.
In court, Stone took the stand and reportedly pleaded for a second chance, offering Jackson his apology for a “stupid lapse in judgment” and an “egregious mistake” which he attributed to “extreme stress.”
Questioning him directly, Jackson reportedly told Stone he was “100 percent responsible” for the posts to his Instagram account, regardless of the “volunteers” who may have helped him with his social media. She pressed Stone about why he didn’t Google to “come up with a photograph that doesn’t have crosshairs in the corner?”
After a brief break, according to courtroom reports, Jackson held Stone responsible: “This was a deliberate action,” she said, adding, “Roger Stone could not even keep his story straight on the stand.” Stone understood the “sinister message” of his post, Jackson insisted, adding “there’s nothing ambiguous about crosshairs.”
The judge then forbade Stone from speaking about his trial. “I’m not giving you another chance…. From this moment on, the defendant may not speak publicly about the investigation or the case or any of the participants,” Jackson reportedly said, telling Stone directly: “You apparently need clear boundaries so here they are.”
The Roger Stone gag order pic.twitter.com/AMJrrTvogS
— Andrew Prokop (@awprokop) February 21, 2019
This court proceeding follows Stone’s arrest in late January. He was charged by the team of Special Counsel Robert Mueller in a seven-count indictment for attempting to “persuade a witness to provide false testimony” and for lying to a congressional committee. He posted a $250,000 bond and proclaimed his innocence.
Stone courted trouble over President’s Day Weekend, posting the now-infamous photo of Jackson, and the text:
Through legal trickery Deep State hitman Robert Mueller has guaranteed that my upcoming show trial is before Judge Amy Berman Jackson, an Obama appointed judge who dismissed the Benghazi charges against Hillary Clinton and incarcerated Paul Manafort prior to his conviction for any crime. #fixisin
Within hours, Stone appeared to realize he’d made a serious mistake. He pulled the post and added another:
He then made a formal apology to the court, writing: “Please inform the Court that the photograph and comment today was improper and should not have been posted. I had no intention of disrespecting the Court and humbly apologize to the Court for the transgression.”
Jackson, who sits in United States District Court for the District of Columbia, was not amused. She ordered Stone to appear before the court Thursday to “show cause… as to why the media contact order entered in this case and/or his conditions of release should not be modified or revoked in light of the posts on his Instagram account.”
Jackson’s original gag order had been fairly loose, instructing parties in the case to “refrain from making statements… that pose a substantial likelihood of material prejudice to this case.”
As his troubles mounted, Stone offered a new explanation to the Washington Post, saying the image interpreted widely as crosshairs “is evidentially more correctly a Celtic symbol.” (The evolving explanation recalled the 2016 Trump campaign’s efforts to explain away an image it posted of a Star of David next to Hillary Clinton’s face backgrounded by piles of cash as a “sheriff” star.)
This is a breaking news story and has been updated.