Federal prosecutors stopped short Tuesday of calling for Roger Stone to be jailed for potentially violating a court-imposed gag order.
Instead, government attorneys urged a judge to consider banning the longtime Donald Trump associate from using social media while he awaits trial later this fall.
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The suggestion from assistant U.S. attorney Jonathan Kravis to take away Stone’s Instagram and other social media accounts came as U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson held a hearing where she weighed what to do about the government’s allegations that Stone repeatedly broke her prohibition that he shouldn’t be commenting about the case at all.
Stone is set to go on trial in November for lying to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering on charges originally brought by special counsel Robert Mueller — and Jackson earlier this year had already banned the GOP operative from making public statements that could infringe on a fair trial.
During a contentious Tuesday morning hearing, Jackson presented Stone’s attorneys with about a dozen social media posts their client made dating back to February that government prosecutor Jonathan Kravis in court argued “clearly violate” the gag order.
“Was there anything unclear about my order?” Jackson asked the Stone lawyers after running through a brief history of the issue, which included Stone making a courtroom apology in February after he posted a photo of what looked like gun-sight crosshairs above a picture of the judge.
Jackson handed copies of each Stone post over to his lawyer, Bruce Rogow, who then conferred with Stone before offering explanations for why they argue he’s not in violation of the court order. Notably, Rogow didn’t dispute Stone had posted any of the messages. But his answers parsed whether they had crossed any lines.
On a message Stone sent to Buzzfeed offering a comment about the validity of testimony that former Trump attorney Michael Cohen had just delivered to Congress, Rogow argued the remarks had nothing to do with Stone’s own case in Washington, D.C.
Rogow said that another Stone post — with the words “Who framed Roger Stone?” — was “simply a comment on his situation that he’s in court, that he’s subject to some action in court.”
Jackson also read aloud a Stone Instagram post from May, in which he took issue with a POLITICO story about her decision to see unredacted portions of the Mueller report. The post called out the article as incorrect “because they are biased elitist snot-nosed fake news shitheads who’s specialty is distortion by omitting key facts to create a false narrative.”
“It’s a comment about POLITICO. It’s a comment about what they did and how they reacted to the public filing about the case,” Rogow explained.
Asked for recommendations on how she should handle the gag order issue, Stone’s lawyers said they would urge Jackson to consider repealing her prohibition. “I think you should let this hearing speak for itself,” Rogow added, while also promising to work with Stone on all of his subsequent social media post to make sure they don’t violate any limits.
Kravis countered that while the government didn’t want Stone to be held in civil or criminal contempt — a ruling that could lead to fines or jail time — they would back an order banning Stone from using social media, along with further clarifications about what Stone can and can’t say.
“The events of Feb. 21 to today show no matter how clear a line the court draws the defendant will cross it,” Kravis said.