Roger Stone leaves federal court Friday, Feb. 1, 2019, in Washington. (Photo: AP)
A federal judge on Friday cautioned longtime Donald Trump confidant Roger Stone not to treat the charges against him like a public relations campaign or book tour, and said she may issue a gag order in the case.
US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said she had already noticed a significant amount of publicity in the case, including television appearances in which Stone has asserted his innocence.
“This is a criminal proceeding and not a public relations campaign,” Jackson said, adding that “it behooves counsel and the parties to do their talking in this courtroom and in their pleadings and not on the courthouse steps or on the talk show circuit.”
She said Stone may have “justifiably felt the need to get his story out,” but his public statements risk tainting a pool of jurors who may ultimately decide his case.
Jackson did not immediately issue an order barring Stone or prosecutors from discussing the case, giving both sides until next week to weigh in. She said even if she did issue an order, the talkative political operative would still be free to opine on other matters.
“It would not be a bar on all public relations, activities or press communications, but only those related to this case,” she said. “A party could discuss foreign relations, immigration or Tom Brady as much as they wanted.”
Stone, 66, who was arrested last week in a pre-dawn raid at his Florida home, is the sixth Trump aide charged in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible coordination between Russia and Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. He has pleaded not guilty to felony charges of witness tampering, obstruction and false statements.
Wearing a double-breasted pinstripe suit, Stone emerged from the courthouse after Friday’s hearing and struck his two-handed victory pose in homage to former President Richard Nixon. He was then whisked away into a waiting vehicle amid supporters holding “Roger Stone did nothing wrong” signs. A protester held up a placard reading “Treason.”
Stone made the rounds on television last weekend and held a news conference Thursday at a Washington hotel, where he said he was prepared to tell the truth to Mueller but he had no derogatory information about Trump, his longtime friend.
“I have great affection and remain a strong and loyal supporter of the president,” Stone said.
He also said he was prepared to adhere to a gag order if the judge issued one but that he would likely appeal it. Among his lawyers is a noted First Amendment attorney who successfully represented the rap group 2 Live Crew in an obscenity court case nearly 30 years ago.
A seven-count indictment accuses Stone of misleading Congress about interactions with friends in which he discussed emails that were stolen from Democratic groups and in the possession of WikiLeaks. The anti-secrecy website released the communications in the weeks before the presidential election in an effort to harm Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
But the indictment doesn’t charge Stone or anyone close to the campaign of coordinating directly with WikiLeaks or having advance knowledge of its plans.
“I am not accused of Russian collusion, I am not accused of collaboration with WikiLeaks, I am not accused of conspiracy,” Stone said Thursday. “There is no evidence or accusation that I knew in advance about the source or content of the WikiLeaks material.”
In a court filing Thursday, prosecutors said the FBI seized physical devices from his home, apartment and office. They said multiple hard drives containing several terabytes of information have been recovered, including bank and financial records and the contents of numerous phones and computers.
Jackson also presides over Mueller’s prosecution of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and issued a gag order in that case after one of Manafort’s attorneys addressed reporters outside the courthouse following his first court appearance.