The judge who is overseeing Roger Stone’s trial issued a gag order last week which prohibits the parties, counsel, and witnesses from making comments in or near the courthouse that might “pose a substantial likelihood of material prejudice to [the] case.” She also specified that the parties and witnesses should not make statements to the media or in public settings “intended to influence any juror, potential juror, judge, witness or court officer or interfere with the administration of justice.”
A quick look at Stone’s Instagram page indicates that he did not fully internalize the latter message.
Clearly, this transgression did not take place in or near the courthouse, but it certainly was a public statement. It’s hard to see how it was not intended to have some influence over potential jurors and witnesses. The bigger problem may be how it influences the judge. In her ruling, Amy Berman Jackson made it clear that she might amend her limited gag rule in the future if circumstances warranted a change.
At a minimum, I doubt she will appreciate how Stone has characterized her treatment of Hillary Clinton and Paul Manafort or the suggestion that she is not objective because she was appointed by Barack Obama. She won’t like seeing her courtroom described as a venue for “an upcoming show trial,” nor the assertion that her assignment to the case is part of some devious plot hatched in collusion with the Office of Special Counsel. I don’t even think she will take lightly the jab at Robert Mueller, that he is a “Deep State hitman.”
Normal people who are about to go on trial do not go after the judge. Of course, Roger Stone is not a normal person. His only hope in Jackson’s courtroom is for a hung jury. There is no chance he will win an acquittal on all charges. So, tampering with the jury is key to his defense strategy. More than that, it’s clear that he wants to raise money to pay for his defense. If he gets slapped around for it, I guess he figures it is worth the risk.
Stone probably realizes that he’s going to spend the rest of his life in prison if this trial goes forward in a normal way and he doesn’t receive a presidential pardon. Respecting the gag order would serve neither end.
So, here we are.