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General News Details

Judge Puts Gag Order on Stone Case

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 
proceedings."

   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 
Clinton's campaign.

   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."


(KA)

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