A federal judge Friday said that she was “considering” imposing a gag order in Roger Stone’s case, but hasn’t made up her mind yet and is asking both Stone’s lawyers and prosecutors to file a brief on the matter by Feb. 8.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson noted the “considerable” publicity the case was attracting and said it “behooves” the lawyers to do their talking through court proceedings, rather than on “the talk show circuit.” It was Stone’s first appearance before Jackson.
“The upshot” Jackson said, of treating the court proceedings “like a book tour,” is that it could taint the jury.
She said if she were to impose a gag order, it would not be a bar on public relations activity — that the parties would be free to discuss immigration, foreign relations or “Tom Brady” — but that they would not be allowed to make statements that would prejudice the case.
Stone, a GOP operative, was indicted by a federal grand last week with obstruction, making false statements and witness tampering. He allegedly lied to Congress about his dealings with Wikileaks, and threatened an associate who had been called to testify in front of Congress about their interaction, according to the indictment.
Stone was arrested at his Florida home a week ago, after months of speculation that the Trump ally would be indicted in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.
The judge also discussed a potential schedule for the case. Michael Marando — a proseuctor in the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s office, which is trying the case jointly with Mueller — said that government anticipated setting a trial date “somewhere in the fall.”
Jackson said that she had thought that July sounded “pretty good,” or even August. She did not set a trial date. She instead scheduled another status hearing for March 14, with the hopes that the defense lawyers would have a better handle on the amount of discovery they’d be dealing with in the case and potentially what pre-trial motions they’d seek to file.
Prosecutors have said that they intend to hand over “voluminous” discovery in the case, and Marando indicated Friday that it would be produced in multiple tranches.
Speaking on Stone’s behalf was the Florida-based attorney Robert Buschel, who said he would be the lead attorney in the case. Stone has expanded his legal team in recent days, and Jackson noted the “broad range” of expertise those attorneys brought. Among the attorneys Stone has hired is Bruce Ragow, a well-known First Amendment lawyer from Florida, Politico reported.
While Stone is known for his attention-craving ways — which in the last few days since his arrest included a conservative media blitz and an InfoWars-branded press conference — he kept a low profile at Friday’s hearing.
He arrived at the courthouse using an entrance where fewer demonstrators and media tend to congregate than the one he used for his arraignment earlier this week, and he did not make any extended statements to the press. He wore a grey suit and spoke only once during the hearing, when the judge asked if he understood instructions as part of his conditions of release that he not contact any witnesses or potential witness in his case.
“Yes, your honor,” Stone said.
Jackson also spent some time walking Stone’s lawyers through the local rules and expectations of her court. Several of his attorneys are from out of town, and earlier this week they ran into issues meeting the filing requirements to get approval to represent him in D.C. She brought up the rules for filing sealed motions (though she did not mention specifically the redaction snafu had recently by the attorneys for Paul Manafort, whose case is also front of her). The judge also instructed the lawyers to call the court’s deputy clerk rather than her chambers if they had any procedural questions.
Additionally she sought clarification about a proposed protective order she went on to sign regarding discovery. She asked if its language allowing discovery to be shared with “administrative personnel” would include PR representatives or spokespeople.
Marando said that the government would not read it that way.