WASHINGTON — A federal judge imposed a gag order on Roger Stone’s legal proceedings that places some limitations on what he, his lawyers, and other parties say about the case.
Stone, a longtime associate of President Donald Trump, was arrested last month after special counsel Robert Mueller brought charges that he misled the House Intelligence Committee about his attempts to communicate with WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential campaign. WikiLeaks released a trove of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and later from John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman.
In the wake of his indictment, which also includes charges of obstruction and witness tampering, Stone has granted numerous interviews and made statements denying the charges and blasting Mueller’s investigation as politically motivated.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson wrote on Friday that she has “particular concerns about the potential impact of public statements made in the District of Columbia, directed at individuals who may be members of the venire from which the jury will be drawn.”
She added, “in light of the size and vociferousness of the crowds that have already been attracted to these proceedings, and the risk that public pronouncements by the participants may inflame those gatherings, the Court is persuaded that a narrowly tailored order governing the conduct of participants in the matter while they are at the courthouse is necessary to advance the Court’s legitimate interest in maintaining the order and decorum that is essential to court proceedings and the fair administration of justice.”
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She said that attorneys and witnesses must refrain from “making statements to the media or in public settings that pose a substantial likelihood of material prejudice to this case.” She also ordered all of the parties, presumably including Stone, to refrain from making prejudicial statements to the media in the vicinity of the courthouse.
She also warned Stone that his public statements could work against him in future proceedings. She wrote that “one factor that will be considered in the evaluation of any future request for relief based on pretrial publicity will be the extent to which the publicity was engendered by the defendant himself.”
Stone’s first appearance at the D.C. courthouse drew a mix of pro-Stone and anti-Trump demonstrators.
As he exited, he didn’t speak to reporters but gave a Nixon-like wave of both arms with his fingers locked in the “V” for victory sign. On the day of his arrest, he held a news conference outside a Fort Lauderdale courthouse, where he had made his first appearance before a judge.
Stone’s attorneys argued against the gag order, claiming that “to silence a defendant who has demonstrably been the subject, and will continue to be the subject, of unrestrained comment, speculation, opinion and criticism by the press would be particularly constitutionally suspect.” They also said that as a public commentator, speaking is part of his livelihood.
“Whether it is his pursuit of a posthumous pardon for Marcus Garvey, or the style of his clothes, or the state of the Nation, Roger Stone is a voice,” his attorneys argued in a brief earlier this month.
On Instagram on Friday, Stone wrote that he was “grateful that the Judge’s order today leaves my First Amendment Rights intact so that I can defend myself. I will, nonetheless continue to be judicious in my comments regarding my case.”
At a hearing earlier this month, Jackson had said that she was considering a gag order. She said that the case was a “criminal proceeding and not a public relations campaign.”
“I believe 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.
Author Jerome Corsi’s attorney called for the judge to issue the gag order, arguing that Stone had engaged in an effort to “defame, coerced intimidate and threaten” him. Corsi’s attorneys say that he is likely to be called as a witness as he is identified as “Person 1” in Mueller’s indictment.
Prosecutors contend that on July 25, 2016, Stone emailed Corsi and told him to “get to” WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange at the Ecuadoran Embassy in London to try to obtain Clinton Foundation emails. On Aug. 2, Corsi wrote to Stone, “Word is friend in embassy plans 2 more dumps. One shortly after I’m back. 2nd in Oct. Impact planned to be very damaging.”
Stone, however, never disclosed his exchanges with Corsi to the congressional committee, according to prosecutors, and instead claimed that radio host Randy Credico had been his intermediary with Assange. Prosecutors also contend that Stone falsely claimed that he never discussed those contacts with anyone involved in the Trump campaign.