U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson banned Roger Stone from making any public comments about his case Thursday, after holding an off-the-rails hearing about a threatening Instagram post he published bashing the judge. Berman Jackson indicated that if he violated her order, he could be thrown in jail before trial.
Roger Stone said he was “heartfully sorry” for the post earlier in the hearing. Speaking from the stand, he said the Instagram post was a “stupid” lapse “of judgement.”
“I am kicking myself over my own stupidity,” Stone said.
Throughout the first part of the hearing, which lasted nearly an hour, Stone repeatedly apologized as Berman Jackson grilled Stone, expressed her exasperation with him, and called him out for contradicting himself in testimony. She also zeroed in on comments Stone made to the media about the Instagram post, which she said undermined his apologies for it.
“Mr. Stone could not even keep his story straight on the stand — much less one day to or another,” she said when she decided to expand Stone’s gag order.
When announcing her decision, Berman Jackson said Stone had chosen to use his public platform in a way that could “incite others” and noted her duty to protect court employees, prosecutors, witnesses and judges themselves.
She called Stone’s testimony “evolving and contradicting” and said that his apology rang “hollow.”
“You apparently need clear boundaries so there they are,” Berman Jackson said, before rattling off an extensive list of places he’s banned from making public commentary about the case. She said he is only allowed to promote his legal defense fund and state that he was pleading not guilty.
The Thursday hearing was called after Stone on Monday posted and then removed an image of Berman Jackson on his Instagram with a crosshairs target in the corner of the background. The caption said that she would oversee the “upcoming show trial” due to the “legal trickery” of “Deep State hitman Robert Mueller,” and that the “#fixisin.” In statements he posted to his Instagram after removing the image, Stone denied that it was intended to be threatening and said that the crosshairs target was merely the logo of the organization, “something called corruption central,” that had originally published the image he posted. His lawyers also filed a formal apology with the court.
Berman Jackson’s order scheduling Thursday’s hearing said that Stone would need to be prepared to explain why the gag order in the case shouldn’t be adjusted and why his pretrial release on bail shouldn’t be revoked.
Stone blamed the lapse of judgement on the stress he’s under as a result of the charges that have been brought against him by special counsel Robert Mueller.
He said he is facing “acute financial distress,” and that he had exhausted all of his savings.
“I have television commentators talking about the possibility I will be raped in prison,” Stone said.
He told Berman Jackson that he was “sorry I abused your trust,” and later acknowledged, “Perhaps I speak too much.”
Berman Jackson questioned Stone specifically on the crosshairs symbol. She asked whether he could have used Google to find an image of her that did not have that symbol. They then engaged in a back and forth about Stone’s claims to the media this week that the symbol was actually a celtic symbol or a symbol of the occult.
As she handed down her decision, she noted the symbol again.
“Roger Stone fully understands the power of words and the power of symbols and there is nothing ambiguous about crosshairs,” she said.
Jonathan Kravis, a lawyer for the government also got a chance to question Stone on the stand.
Stone said that the image he chose was among two or three picked out for him by volunteers who have been assisting him. He said he chose it “just randomly.”
“You closed your eyes and picked?” Berman Jackson interjected to ask.
The judge was also interested in media interviews Stone gave after taking down the image where he made comments undercutting the apology his lawyers had filed in the court. She suggested that those comments were not “consistent” with the apology he filed to the court on Monday.
There was also an extended discussion of who was involved in creating the post. Stone named a few people who work as volunteers for him but couldn’t say which one sent him the photo. The image “was either emailed, texted or saved on my phone,” Stone saidHealso claimed that he deleted the other one or two images of Berman Jackson he had on his phone that he considered using for the post.
Kravis asked him to name all the people who have been working with him and who may have had access to his phone when he posted the Instagram. Stone said he couldn’t remember everyone who may have come and gone around him in the last few days.
“It’s a revolving situation,” Stone said
The gag order Berman Jackson previously imposed on the case last week was notably more lenient for Stone than the order she crafted in Paul Manafort’s case, where Manafort had not opposed the idea of a gag order. Stone had only been banned from making comments on the case when he was entering and exiting the courthouse, while the lawyers for the parties and the witnesses had faced a broader ban.
Stone has been charged in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe with making false statements, obstruction and witness tampering. He has pleaded not guilty.
Stone’s lawyer, Bruce Rogow argued that the gag order and his conditions of release should stand as is, and that Stone deserved a “second chance.”
At the end of his argument, Rogow called the post “indefensible.”
“I agree with you there,” Berman Jackson said.
Kravis meanwhile argued that there should be a tougher gag order and said that Stone’s testimony was “not credible.”
Berman Jackson brought Rogow back in front of her and demanded that he explain what would get Stone to stop talking, if not a court order.
“You and me telling….” Rogow started, before Berman Jackson interjected, “I am the court order.”
“How would you craft a court order that he would find clear enough to follow?” she asked Rogow.