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Judge Puts Gag Order on Stone Case 02/16 10:44
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A federal judge on Friday placed some limits on what
President Donald Trump's longtime confidant Roger Stone and his lawyers can say
publicly about his criminal case in the special counsel's Russia probe.
But U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson stopped short of imposing a broad
ban on public comments by the outspoken political operative, issuing a limited
gag order she said was necessary to ensure Stone's right to a fair trial and
"to maintain the dignity and seriousness of the courthouse and these
The order bars Stone from commenting about his pending case near the
courthouse, but it does not constrain him from making other public statements
about the prosecution. It does generally bar his lawyers, prosecutors and
witnesses from making public comments that could "pose a substantial
likelihood" of prejudicing potential jurors.
Jackson's order comes after a string of media appearances by the
attention-seeking political consultant since his indictment and arrest last
month. In several of those interviews, Stone had blasted special counsel Robert
Mueller's investigation into Russian election interference as politically
motivated and criticized his case as involving only "process crimes."
Jackson had cited those media appearances in raising the prospect of a gag
order, warning Stone at a hearing not to treat his case like a "book tour."
Stone's lawyers had argued that any limits on his public comments would
infringe on his First Amendment right to free speech. They wrote in a filing
last week that Stone's comments wouldn't merit a "clear and present danger to a
fair trial." Mueller's prosecutors didn't oppose a gag order.
In her order, Jackson said she considered not only the potential impact of
public comments on jurors but also the need to maintain order at the federal
courthouse in Washington.
Citing the "size and vociferousness" of crowds already attracted to Stone's
court proceedings, Jackson barred Stone, lawyers and witnesses from making any
statements to the news media while entering and exiting the courthouse.
Jackson left open the possibility that she could amend the order in the
future and reminded Stone that he is not permitted to contact any witnesses in
the case. She also said if Stone complained about pretrial publicity at a later
date, she would consider whether he had brought it on himself.
The 66-year-old Stone was arrested in an FBI raid at his Fort Lauderdale,
Florida, home last month. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of lying to
Congress, obstruction and witness tampering. The charges stem from
conversations he had during the 2016 election about WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy
group that released material stolen from Democratic groups, including Hillary
U.S. intelligence agencies have said that Russia was the source of the
hacked material, and last year Mueller charged 12 Russian intelligence officers
in the hacking.
Stone is not accused of directly coordinating with WikiLeaks. But Mueller's
team did confirm in a court filing Friday that investigators have evidence of
communication between Stone and WikiLeaks and between Stone and Guccifer 2.0,
who purported to be a Romanian hacker responsible for the intrusions but who
authorities say was actually a front for Russian intelligence.
Mueller did not provide details of the communications, though The Atlantic
last year published what it said were Twitter direct messages between Stone and
WikiLeaks, including one in which WikiLeaks appeared to scold Stone for
suggesting in his public comments an association with the organization.
The messages that have been made public were exchanged after WikiLeaks had
begun releasing the hacked material, and they don't show Stone coordinating
with the anti-secrecy group.
Stone has been outspoken since his arrest, declaring his innocence in a news
conference following his first court appearance in Florida and accusing Mueller
of heavy-handed tactics by having him arrested in a pre-dawn raid.
He's been more muted outside the courthouse in Washington, though he did
hold a hotel news conference --- accompanied by a host from the conspiracy
theory website InfoWars --- in which he said he would respect any gag order
from the judge but also expected to appeal it.
He maintained he had no negative information about the president to share
with Mueller and insisted he hadn't done anything wrong.
"I am not accused of Russian collusion, I am not accused of collaboration
with WikiLeaks, I am not accused of conspiracy," Stone said. "There is no
evidence or accusation that I knew in advance about the source or content of
the WikiLeaks material."