Roger Stone Apologizes To Judge After Criticizing Her On Instagram

Feb 21, 2019
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Roger Stone is a brash, self-declared dirty trickster known for speaking his mind. Now federal judge Amy Berman Jackson has barred the Trump confidant from speaking publicly at all about his legal case. Stone has been charged as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. NPR justice reporter Ryan Lucas was in court today, and he is in the studio now. Hi, Ryan.

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Hi there.

SHAPIRO: It is never dull when Roger Stone is in court, and it sounds like today was kind of a wild scene. Tell us about it.

LUCAS: It was. There was a long line at the courthouse to get into this hearing. The courtroom itself, of course, was packed. Stone strolled in. He was wearing a double-breasted suit, blue tie, pocket square, kind of how he usually looks. And then the hearing opens, and the defense drops this big surprise. It says, we are going to call Roger Stone to take the stand to testify. There was a ripple of shock through the courtroom. Journalists, members of the public, even the judge seemed a bit surprised by this decision.

Stone walked to the witness stand, raised his right hand, took the oath. And in many ways, things kind of went downhill for Stone from there. He was questioned by his attorney first but then grilled by Judge Jackson and cross-examined by the government.

SHAPIRO: And remind us what this specific hearing was about today.

LUCAS: Well, this all stems from a photograph of the presiding judge, Judge Amy Berman Jackson, that Stone posted to his Instagram account earlier this week. The caption to the photo attacked the special counsel's Russia investigation, really criticized the judge as well, included the hashtag #fixisin.

But the biggest issue was that in the upper left hand corner of the photograph was what looked like crosshairs to a gun. That raised questions about whether this was some sort of threat against the judge. Stone took the photo down after he posted it, but Jackson was not amused. She called today's hearing to have him come in and explain what was going on.

SHAPIRO: And what did each side want out of this today?

LUCAS: Well, the government wanted restrictions placed on Stone and his public statements. They argued that the post was an attack on the proceedings. It was an attempt to sway public opinion about the investigation and the case. And they said that it could taint the jury pool.

Stone's defense team, on the other hand, they asked for a second chance. They said, please do not impose a gag order on Stone himself. Stone, when he was on the stand, said that he'd learned his lesson, said it was a momentary lapse in judgment, promised that it wouldn't happen again.

Now, prosecutors and Judge Jackson really dug into Stone about that. They asked - you know, he was - talked about this apology that he filed immediately with the court. If he was sincere with that, they asked, why would he be on TV afterwards defending the photograph, saying that the uproar over it was just the media making him a target? Stone struggled answer that.

SHAPIRO: OK. So maybe he wasn't the most compelling witness. At the end of the day, the judge has barred him from talking about this case or anyone involved when he posts on social media or goes on TV. If he happens to violate that gag order, what happens then?

LUCAS: Well, throughout this whole hearing, Jackson made quite clear that she was not happy with the post. She made clear that she did not find what she called his evolving explanation over what happened convincing. She concluded that he would be a danger to others if she didn't impose restrictions.

And then she told Stone that if he does not follow the terms of this gag order, she would, quote, "be compelled to adjust your environment." Now, she spelled it out so that it was absolutely clear what that meant. If he violates this, she will revoke his bond and lock him up pending trial.

SHAPIRO: He is always - well, he's not exactly a humble person. How did he take that?

LUCAS: Well, you know, Stone looked kind of contrite throughout this whole hearing. But again, he's someone who has a history of speaking out. It will be interesting to see whether he can live by this gag order.

SHAPIRO: NPR justice reporter Ryan Lucas. Thank you.

LUCAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.