'Apology rings hollow': judge rebukes Roger Stone and slaps stricter gag order
'Apology rings hollow': judge rebukes Roger Stone and slaps stricter gag order
Roger Stone due back in court after Instagram post that showed judge in his case
22 February, 2019, 04:15
Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington said it would be "foolhardy" to wait for Stone to transgress again in the wake of an Instagram post that appeared to show her photo near crosshairs and suggested both she and the special counsel were biased.
But Judge Amy Berman Jackson slapped Mr Stone with a strict gag order that bars him from public comment on his case.
Stone has pleaded not guilty to charges he lied to Congress, engaged in witness tampering and obstructed a congressional investigation into possible coordination between Russian Federation and Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. "Mr Stone could not even keep his story straight on the stand", she said.
"I'm sorry that I abused your trust", Stone told Jackson.
"I regret it", he added. He was still allowed to discuss the case away from the courthouse. "I recognize that I let the court down", Stone said. He is the sixth Trump aide or adviser charged in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, which increasingly appears to be reaching its final stages. "I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand".
Jackson was having none of it and after saying his apology rings "quite hollow" she ordered him not to communicate publicly about the case anymore.
The judge said she doubted Stone had learned his lesson and it was clear he needed "clear boundaries" about what he can and can't say to prevent potential jurors from being prejudiced. Stone and his lawyers filed a notice with the court that said they recognized the photo was "improper and should not have been posted".
Several hours after posting the Instagram messages, Stone submitted the formal apology to Jackson and downplayed the symbolism of the gun target.
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"I erased all of the images of your honor because I did not want to make the same mistake twice", he said. He was arrested last month and has remained free on a $250,000 personal recognizance bond. Using the judge's photo alone would have been out of bounds, but the crosshairs imagery puts it beyond the pale. He said the photo was randomly selected from the Internet, and that he was not intending to threaten the judge or disrespect the court.
"The judge has very little option other than to revoke his bond and take him in to custody", former federal prosecutor Ryan Fayhee said, explaining there's really only one way to interpret the juxtaposition of Jackson's head and the crosshairs.
Stone later took the image down and apologized, but afterwards he gave an interview on conspiracy website Infowars defending the post.
Jackson made her ruling after a highly unusual hearing in which Stone, who is charged with crimes related to Mueller's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 US election, took the stand to testify about the posting.
At first when asked by his lawyer Bruce Rogow if one of those volunteers had posted the image, Stone testified he did not select or review it.
He insisted in another Instagram post that he did not create the offending post, but that it had been the work of a "volunteer" who mistakenly used the wrong "random" photo.
Stone, 66, is charged with lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstruction stemming from his contacts with WikiLeaks, which published Russian-hacked communications from Democrat Hillary Clinton's camp during the 2016 election campaign.
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