Appeals Court Keeps Roger Stone Gag Order Intact

Roger Stone, a longtime confidant of President Donald Trump charged in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, arrives with his wife, Nydia Stone, left, at federal court in Washington on July 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Sait Serkan Gurbuz)

WASHINGTON (CN) — Roger Stone, longtime adviser to President Donald Trump, remains barred from social media after the D.C. Circuit refused to lift a gag order Tuesday. 

Stone triggered the media blackout by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson when he posted a picture in February to his Instagram page showing the judge with crosshairs of a gun beside her head. Stone claimed to have believed they were Celtic occult symbols. 

Jackson expanded the order in July, after repeated violations by Stone. 

Though Stone told the D.C. Circuit that the gag violated both his and family members’ right to free speech, the court ruled Tuesday that the proper venue for Stone to raise such a challenge was with Jackson.

“Stone had an adequate avenue of relief – direct appeal – but he failed to avail himself of it in a timely fashion, so we lack jurisdiction to grant the mandamus petition,” U.S. Circuit Judge Robert Wilkins, an Obama appointee, wrote for a three-person panel.

Stone is set to stand trial on Nov. 5 on charges he obstructed the investigation by Congress into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election, engaged in witness tampering and lied to Congress. He has pleaded not guilty. 

Wilkins noted that Stone has fueled considerable publicity as the case unfolded in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. 

The gag order also prohibits Stone’s family members from making statements on his behalf, a provision they argued chills their free speech, inciting fear that any public statement on the case could jeopardize his conditions of release or subject them to a court inquiry. 

Wilkins called the claim exaggerated. 

“Moreover, Stone cannot be automatically punished anytime one of his family members speaks about his criminal proceedings,” he wrote. “Rather, the government would have the burden to establish such surrogacy by clear and convincing evidence.”

In expanding the gag order, Jackson said Stone knows full well the power of social media.

The comments followed several Instagram posts by Stone that shared content from other parties and tagged major news outlets like The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. Federal prosecutors accused Stone of deliberately working to generate press coverage on his case or the Russia investigation by former special counsel Robert Mueller.

“Mr. Stone was not content to leave those posts out there unread, unliked,” Jackson said in a July hearing.

The shared content included articles that parroted Trump’s claim that the investigation by Mueller was a “Russia Hoax.”

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