Judge Wants Answers From Stone on Crosshairs Post

WASHINGTON (CN) – The federal judge overseeing Roger Stone’s case ordered him to appear in court Thursday to explain why he posted a picture of her on Instagram with apparent crosshairs of a gun sight near her head.

Stone, a longtime Trump confidante, deleted the first image not long after he posted it, only to post the image again without the crosshairs before deleting that one, too.

Later in the day his attorneys submitted a notice of apology to the court.

“Please inform the court that the photograph and comment today was improper and should not have been posted,” the 1-page apology said. “I had no intention of disrespecting the court and humbly apologize to the Court for the transgression.”

Gearing up to modify the limited gag order issued in Stone’s case, or the conditions of his pretrial release, Jackson directed Stone to change her mind.

Former federal prosecutor Elizabeth de la Vega suggested in an interview that one option Jackson might take is a blanket gag order on Stone.

“In posting this photograph, he has already, at a minimum, violated the conditions of release and made it clear that her media contact order does not sufficiently cover the range of conduct in which he might engage to impair the fairness of his trial,” de la Vega said in an email. “So the judge could certainly impose a strict, blanket gag order.”

But de la Vega said the more serious question now facing Stone is whether the judge will revoke his pretrial release.

“Based on the fact that Stone has violated the conditions already imposed in a way that not only directly threatens the judge, but also constitutes probable cause to believe he has committed a felony violation … while on release, it will be up to Stone to prove that such release conditions do exist,” she said.

“If he cannot satisfy the court that there are conditions that would keep him from committing further violations, or engaging in other conduct that endanger the community and individual persons (including herself), the judge would be legally justified, under the Bail Reform Act, in revoking his release and remanding him to pretrial custody,” de la Vega added.

Stone meanwhile took to Instagram to claim his posts were misinterpreted.

“This was a random photo taken from the Internet,” he said. “Any inference that this was meant to somehow threaten the Judge or disrespect court is categorically false.”

Apart from the image, Stone’s post called Special Counsel Robert Mueller a “deep state hitman,” and characterized the case against him as a “show trial.” He also noted that Jackson, an Obama appointee, had dismissed a lawsuit brought by the parents of two of the four Americans killed when insurgents stormed the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012.

Stone has denied to the Washington Post that his initial post contained crosshairs.

“What some say are crosshairs are in fact the logo of the organization that originally posted it – something called corruption central,” he told the Post. “They use the logo in many places.”

Special Counsel Mueller has indicted Stone for lying to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering about his effort to acquire information about Democratic Party emails WikiLeaks published that U.S. intelligence agencies say Russian intelligence stole in an effort to tilt the 2016 election in then-candidate Donald Trump’s favor.

Stone has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

On Friday prosecutors said in a court filing they had executed several search warrants on accounts containing Stone’s communications with WikiLeaks and Guccifer 2.0, which Mueller has alleged is the likely pseudonym for a group of Russian intelligence officials that hacked Democratic Party emails.

The communications were obtained “from common search warrants” the special counsel used to investigate and prosecute a group of 12 Russian intelligence officials related to the theft and transfer of the Democratic emails, which were damaging to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. 

Judge Jackson meanwhile issued a limited gag order in the case on Friday, instructing Stone not to make public statements about the case at or near the courthouse, and instructing attorneys in the case, including for potential witnesses, to refrain from statements that could prejudice jurors.

Stone will appear in court on Thursday at 2:30 p.m.

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