Judge restricts social media use of Trump friend Roger Stone
Washington – No more Instagram for Roger Stone. Facebook and Twitter are out, too.
A federal judge barred Stone from posting on social media Tuesday after finding that the longtime confidant of President Donald Trump repeatedly flouted her gag order. Stone, who is charged with lying in the Russia investigation, has used social media repeatedly to disparage the case against him and the broader election interference probe.
Though U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson did not send Stone to jail or find him in contempt, she said his behavior was more appropriate for middle school than a court of law.
“You’ve shown me that you’re unwilling to stop talking about the investigation, which means that you’re unwilling to conform your conduct to the orders of the court,” the judge said. The social media ban lasts for the duration of the criminal case.
The arguments underscored how some of the Trump aides charged in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation have repeatedly tested the limits of the court.
While most defendants normally look to avoid the government’s ire, Stone has regularly thumbed his nose at the prosecution with Instagram posts to tens of thousands of followers that denigrate the Mueller investigation. Another defendant, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, was jailed before trial after Jackson found that he had improperly contacted a witness in the case. And George Papadopoulos, another ex-aide, attacked the Mueller probe after his sentencing last year.
Stone is charged with witness tampering and lying to congressional lawmakers in their investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Jackson had posted a gag order on him in February after Stone posted a photo of the judge with what appeared to be crosshairs of a gun. Since then, though, he’s made a series of posts on Instagram that have caught prosecutors’ attention.
In court Tuesday, Jackson went through Stone’s posts one-by-one with defense lawyer Bruce Rogow. The posts included screenshots of news coverage calling into question the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia had hacked Democratic email accounts. Another post asked “Who Framed Roger Stone?” a riff on the popular 1980s film, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.”
Rogow argued that Stone was using social media to communicate to others what is happening in the case, “but not doing it in a way to infect or affect what the whole underlying reason is for the court order” – to ensure an impartial jury and a fair trial.
But Jackson said another, more basic question was of concern: whether Stone violated her original order.