WASHINGTON — A federal judge Tuesday ordered Roger Stone to stop using social media "in any way, on any subject," while he is awaiting trial, saying the adviser to President Donald Trump has repeatedly tested the limits of a gag order prohibiting him from speaking publicly about the case.
"I’ve twice given you the benefit of the doubt," U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said at a hearing Tuesday.
Jackson told Stone that he had repeatedly failed to act responsibly while awaiting trial on charges including obstruction and witness tampering, and compared his behavior to that of a middle-schooler. "Your lawyer had to twist the facts … and twist himself into a pretzel to argue that these posts don’t cross the line," she said.
Stone, a longtime Republican operative, was charged in January with making false statements about his interactions with the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential campaign. He was the last Trump adviser to be indicted as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's wide-ranging investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Jackson said Stone has used his social media platforms to "gin up" more public comment and controversy about the legitimacy of the Russia investigation and, in turn, his own prosecution.
"It seems he’s determined on making himself the subject of a story," Jackson said.
The judge, however, declined to send Stone to jail, saying that finding him in contempt "would be wasteful, unnecessary and counterproductive" and would only lead to more pretrial publicity.
"So what am I supposed to do with you?" Jackson asked.
The social media restrictions – which prohibit Stone from using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – are in addition to earlier limits imposed by the gag order prohibiting Stone from speaking publicly about the case, the investigation, or anyone involved. The judge added those restrictions following recent Instagram posts that the government's attorneys said violated the order.
Jackson imposed a gag order in February after a series of social media posts, including a picture of her next to what appeared to be a gun's crosshairs. Stone, who said on Instagram that his post had been "widely misinterpreted," apologized, saying the image was "improper."
In June, prosecutors alerted the court about new social media posts that they say violated the gag order. One Instagram post showed what appears to be an screenshot image of an article claiming the Russia investigation was a hoax and the intelligence community's "betrayal of their responsibilities." Another post is an image saying former CIA director John Brennan must be "hung for treason."