(Bloomberg) -- Roger Stone said he’s sorry. It may be too late.
On Monday, Stone, a sometime adviser to President Donald Trump who faces charges of lying to Congress and obstructing a federal investigation, posted a photo of U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson on his Instagram account, along with a short diatribe saying she’s the judge overseeing his “upcoming show trial.” Beside the head shot of Jackson was an image of what looked like rifle-scope crosshairs.
After the post caught the attention of social media, Stone took it down and apologized to the judge, conceding it was improper. "I had no intention of disrespecting the court and humbly apologize to the court for the transgression," he wrote in a court filing.
On Thursday, Stone will appear before Jackson as she weighs whether to tighten a gag order or change the terms of his bail. She may even lock him up.
"The judge has very little option other than to revoke his bond and take him in to custody," former federal prosecutor Ryan Fayhee said, explaining there’s really only one way to interpret the juxtaposition of Jackson’s head and the crosshairs. “It was a threat to the judge."
More on Roger Stone’s Instagram
Stone, 66, has offered other explanations, saying on Instagram that the photo was cribbed from the internet and that the gun-sight imagery is the logo of Corruption Central, the group that originally posted the picture. In interviews, he’s described it as both a Celtic and occult symbol.
But he also described Jackson in the Instagram post as “an Obama appointed Judge who dismissed the Benghazi charges against Hillary Clinton and incarcerated Paul Manafort prior to his conviction for any crime. #fixisin.”
Fayhee said Stone’s excuses will likely fall flat. Using the judge’s photo alone would have been out of bounds, but the crosshairs imagery puts it beyond the pale. "With the public watching, and what can only reasonably be interpreted as a threat, I think she revokes” his bail.
Stone worked on Trump’s campaign in 2015 and remained in contact with the candidate, who went on to become president. He’s accused of lying to House intelligence committee members about his communications, through intermediaries, with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. He’s also accused of pressuring people not to contradict his committee testimony.
He has pleaded not guilty.
Stone’s lawyers didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Stone Timeline per Indictment
Jackson does have less punitive means at her disposal than jailing Stone.
New York criminal defense lawyer Doug Burns said the judge could scold Stone or bar him from using social media. She could also order Stone, who is free on a personal recognizance bond, to put up money to remain out of jail.
"The judge obviously has tremendous power,” he said. “She is either going to give him a good old-fashioned tongue lashing, or she does have the power to alter or in fact revoke his bail."
Stone has argued against a gag order, saying he needs to speak publicly to raise money and pay his lawyers. The Instagram post had a link to Stone’s defense fund. His Florida home, where he was arrested by the FBI in an early morning raid last month, had a “for rent” sign posted near his driveway Wednesday.
Jackson oversaw the cases of Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, and his right-hand man, Rick Gates. She issued gag orders on them and their lawyers.
Just a month after she issued the gag order on Manafort, the political consultant was called into court to explain his role in writing a newspaper article for a Ukrainian newspaper, putting a positive spin on his consulting work there.
He was let go with a warning. Six months later, though, after prosecutors accused Manafort of tampering with potential witnesses, Jackson threw him in jail.
“This is not middle school,” she told Manafort’s lawyers. “I can’t take his cellphone.”
The case is U.S. v. Stone, 1:19-cr-00018, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).
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