Mon, 19 Aug 2019

WASHINGTON - A visibly irritated federal judge on Tuesday banned President Donald Trump's former adviser Roger Stone from posting on social media after prosecutors accused Stone of violating a gag order by repeatedly discussing his case on his Instagram account.

U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson said she would not jail Stone for violating the order, saying holding a contempt hearing, which could result in jail time or a fine, would only generate more media attention that could affect potential jurors.

She also blasted Stone and his lawyers. "Your lawyer had to twists the facts, twist the plain meaning of an order and twist himself into a pretzel" to argue that the posts did not violate her order, the judge told Stone, adding that she could revisit her decision if Stone violates her orders again.

"So what am I supposed to do with you?" Jackson asked, noting she is "wrestling with behavior that has more to do with middle school than a court of law."

During the hearing, Jackson spent about an hour painstakingly reading each one of his posts aloud and asking Stone's attorney Bruce Rogow if they violated her gag order, before taking an hour recess to weigh how she would rule.

One post, she said, featured a photo of Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, next to a meter saying "bullSchiff."

Stone, a long-time Republican political strategist and self-described "agent provocateur" and "dirty trickster," is accused by prosecutors of lying to House Intelligence Committee investigators looking into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, as well as tampering with witnesses.

Jackson said Stone referred to Schiff as a "duplicitous con man" before adding: "if it's Schiff, flush it." The judge then asked if the post was in "contravention" of her order.

Rogow told Jackson he did not think any of the posts violated the judge's prior order, adding: "I am sorry the court is offended by these things."

Stone is scheduled to go to trial in November after pleading not guilty to federal charges of making false statements to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering as part of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

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