WASHINGTON – A federal judge warned Roger Stone, the flamboyant political operative under indictment as part of the Russia investigation, that his latest book could violate an order prohibiting him from talking about the case.
She gave him until Monday to explain himself.
“It does not matter when the defendant may have first formulated the opinions expressed, or when he first put them into words: he may no longer share his views on these particular subjects with the world,” U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said in an order on Tuesday.
Stone, a longtime adviser to President Donald Trump, is charged with lying to Congress and investigators about his interactions with the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Jackson last month ordered Stone not to discuss the charges publicly after a picture of her next to what appeared to be crosshairs appeared on his Instagram page. She summoned Stone to explain that post, which he said was “improper” and apologized.
Floyd Abrams, a prominent First Amendment lawyer, said Tuesday that Stone has a right to make public statements, but warned that “he’s playing with fire.”
“Typically, trial judges don’t like to impose gag orders unless they have to; they don’t like to enforce them unless they must,” Abrams said. “Whether the judge views this as ‘strike three’ is hard to gauge. But there is no doubt that Roger Stone is playing with fire.”
Abrams said a reasonably strict reading of the order would likely have required Stone “to take steps to stop publication” of inflammatory material within his control.
Prosecutors working for special counsel Robert Mueller had filed a notice with the court on Sunday that Stone’s latest book, with what the cover calls “an explosive new introduction” critical of the investigation, was being sold on Amazon and Google Books. They also pointed out that Stone’s Instagram page again featured an image asking “who framed Roger Stone.”
Stone’s lawyers replied Monday that the book had already been published and offered for sale before Jackson’s gag order. The book had been printed and shipped by Feb. 1, and available at bookstores Feb. 19. Sales totaled 96 copies by Feb. 16.
Jackson said in a five-page order Tuesday that her gag order prevented Stone “from making any public statements, using any medium, concerning the investigation.” She said Stone was himself at fault for the order because he abused the latitude she gave him.
And she faulted Stone and his lawyers for failing to mention the book during the hearing at which she imposed the gag order. She suggested that revealing it only later in a court filing “was intended to serve as a means to generate additional publicity for the book.”
The book’s publisher, Skyhorse Publishing, didn’t respond immediately to a request to comment.
Jackson ordered Stone to update her Monday on when the publisher agreed to begin selling the book, when it was available for purchase online, the dates of any Instagram posts since Jan. 15 and any communications he had with the publisher or retailers after the gag order Feb. 21.
More about Roger Stone’s criminal case:
Judge suggests Roger Stone could land in jail over ‘improper’ Instagram post
Judge to Roger Stone: Stop talking about federal case alleging obstruction and lying to Congress
After indictment, Roger Stone mocks Mueller with doctored photo on Instagram