Judge Amy Berman Jackson was not impressed with Roger Stone’s contrite explanation for posting a photo of her to Instagram that included a gun crosshairs icon.
“There’s nothing ambiguous about crosshairs,” Berman told Stone in a Washington courtroom Thursday before ordering him to refrain from all communication about the charges filed against him by special counsel Robert Mueller other than to profess his innocence.
Stone had been under a partial gag order, forbidding him from holding impromptu press conferences outside the courtroom, since an earlier court appearance following his arrest.
After being ordered to appear back in court over the Instagram post on the judge in the case, Stone, an adviser and confidant to President Trump, was sworn in and attempted to explain his actions.
"I am kicking myself over my own stupidity but not more than my wife is kicking me,” Stone, wearing a gray double-breasted suit, told the judge.
Stone was arrested in January in connection with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties with the Russian government during the 2016 presidential election. He was charged in Jackson’s courtroom with witness tampering, obstructing an official proceeding and five counts of making false statements. He pleaded not guilty, but then attacked Jackson in interviews and with his Instagram post.
"I recognize that I let the court down. I let you down. I let myself down. I let my family down. I let my attorneys down. I can only say I'm sorry. It was a momentary lapse in judgement. Perhaps I talk too much."
But Stone also testified that he couldn’t remember which of his five or six assistants had given him the image of Berman with the crosshairs, only that he had selected it to post on Instagram.
Stone admitted to having multiple images of the judge on his phone but claimed he “erased all the images of your honor because I didn't want to make the same mistake twice."
Asked specifically who had provided the crosshairs image, Stone demurred. "Nobody will own up to it," he told the court, and suggested that he initially believed the icon to be an occult or Celtic symbol.
Stone’s lawyer Bruce Rogow sought to keep the judge from imposing a gag order. "This is the only thing that has come up, that's caused him and all of us, that brings us to the court this afternoon,” Rogow said, adding that he found his own client’s decision to post the photo “indefensible.”
"I agree with you there,” the judge quipped in response.
Jackson took a 15-minute recess, which she said she needed “to try to absorb this.”
When she returned, she made her displeasure with Stone abundantly clear, and told the defendant, whose back is tattooed with a likeness of his old boss, Richard Nixon, that she did not find his testimony “credible.”
"What concerns me is the fact that he chose to use his public platform and chose to express himself in a manner that can incite others that feel less constrained,” Jackson said.
“So thank you, but the apology rings quite hollow,” Jackson added before announcing her gag order.
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