A furious federal judge issued a tighter gag order on Roger Stone, the former political advisor to President Trump, after he posted an image on social media showing what appeared to be the crosshairs of a gunsight next to her head.
“I want to be clear today. I gave you a second chance. But this is not baseball. There will not be a third chance,” U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson told Stone, saying that further transgressions could bring jail time.
Stone, who is facing seven criminal charges in the Russian investigation, posted the offending photo of Jackson on Monday along with a comment calling the court proceedings against him a “show trial” and suggesting that the judge was biased against him.
He later deleted the post, then uploaded it again after removing the crosshairs symbol, and then deleted that too. Stone denied that he intended to threaten a judge, which is a felony, and apologized in a court filing.
He asked forgiveness on Thursday when, in a dramatic and risky gambit, he took the witness stand to admit that he had abused the judge’s trust.
"I am kicking myself over my own stupidity,” he said. “but not more than my wife is kicking me.”
“Perhaps I talk too much,” Stone said, a surprising admission for a man who has become infamous for incendiary, nonstop commentary.
Stone’s decision to answer questions under oath, however, revealed that the skills of spin and obfuscation — developed over decades as a campaign consultant — have not translated well to the legal quagmire he now faces. At times he looked deflated in his double-breasted suit, and the corners of his lips were anchored in a deep frown.
Jackson’s anger flared when she addressed Stone.
“How hard was it to come up with a photograph that didn’t have crosshairs in the corner?” she demanded.
Stone said he didn’t notice the symbol when he posted the photo, which he said was found by a volunteer. But he couldn’t identify the volunteer, or even the names of all the helpers who cycle through the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., home that he said functions as his “headquarters.”
Prosecutors also noted that even though Stone has apologized for his Instagram post, he has repeated similar criticisms to several media outlets, including InfoWars, a far-right, conspiracy-themed website.
Jonathan Kravis, a prosecutor with the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, said Stone has “shown a desire to manipulate media coverage” that could taint the jury pool for his trial, which has not yet been scheduled.
Stone asked for leniency because he makes a living as a commentator and writer on politics. But he also admitted that he’s not being paid to talk specifically about the Russia investigation, meaning a gag order wouldn’t necessarily slash his income.
Jackson said Stone’s work in politics and media only made him more responsible for the content of his Instagram post.
“Roger Stone fully understands the power of words and the power of symbols,” she said. “There’s nothing ambiguous about crosshairs.”
Although she did not say whether she interpreted the post as a personal threat, she said such commentary runs the “very real risk” of inciting violence.
Jackson had originally issued a partial gag order on Friday, barring lawyers and prosecutors from speaking publicly about the case, but barring Stone only from commenting on the courthouse premises. Stone responded by promising to be “judicious” in his public remarks about the case.
But because he “promptly abused” that leeway, Jackson said, Stone will only be allowed to ask for donations for his legal defense fund or succinctly proclaim his innocence. No other comments about the case will be allowed.
Stone has pleaded not guilty to charges of making false statements to Congress and witness tampering in the Russia investigation.
He was released on $250,000 bond and repeatedly lashed out at special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to raise money for his legal defense fund.
Prosecutors accuse him of lying to the House Intelligence Committee about his conversations involving WikiLeaks and hacked Democratic Party emails during the 2016 presidential campaign.
According to the indictment, Stone tried to conceal the fact that he reached out to WikiLeaks, which received the emails from Russian military intelligence, and that he discussed the organization with Trump campaign officials.
Stone has denied any wrongdoing.