Roger Stone was barred from making public statements about his case after the longtime associate and informal adviser to President Donald Trump stirred controversy by sharing a photo on his Instagram account that appeared to show a judge near the crosshairs of a gun.
"Today I gave you a second chance," Judge Amy Berman Jackson said. "You don't get a third chance."
Stone, who is currently awaiting trial after being arrested on charges that including allegedly tampering with a witness to hide the details of his attempts to learn about releases of a trove of damaging emails stolen from Democrats during the 2016 presidential campaign, was ordered to appear in federal court Thursday to explain his social media post.
"I don't offer any rationalization or excuse or justification. This is just a stupid lack of judgment," Stone told Judge Amy Berman Jackson on Thursday, according to CNN. "I regret it."
The GOP political operative alleged that a volunteer working for him had downloaded the picture, but he himself wrote the post and published it, according to the news network.
The first post Stone posted was a picture of Jackson with what appeared to be the crosshairs of a gun drawn behind her head. The caption that accompanied the photo of Jackson described special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating allegations of collusion between the commander-in-chief's 2016 presidential campaign and the Russian government, as a "Deep State hitman" that had allegedly set Stone up for a "show trial" in Jackson's court.
The defendant later replaced the post with a cropped image of Jackson that did not include the crosshairs. He also slightly changed the text about Mueller and added a few more hashtags. That post was also removed.
Stone was charged by the Justice Department in late January for lying to congressional investigators about his alleged attempts to find out when potentially damaging emails stolen from Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign would be published by Julian Assange, the publisher of the whistleblower website WikiLeaks whom Stone previously called "my hero." Prosecutors have said Russian intelligence agents hacked Democrats and their email accounts and then shared them with WikiLeaks, which published them during the final months of the 2016 election. He also faces charges of obstruction of an official proceeding and witness tampering. Stone has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
If Jackson decides that Stone violated the conditions of his release,he could be charged for additional crimes like obstruction of justice and sent to jail or fined.
Stone has repeatedly denied any contact with Russia or WikiLeaks. He has claimed that he had no prior knowledge that WikiLeaks had hacked Democrats' emails and would release them ahead of the election, saying the predictions he made about the group's plans were based on Assange's public remarks and tips from associates with inside knowledge. In sworn testimony to the House Intelligence Committee last year, Stone said he did not intend to suggest that he had communicated with Assange directly. WikiLeaks and Assange have also said they never communicated with Stone.
WikiLeaks made two separate email dumps during the heated 2016 race that altered the trajectory of the presidential election. In July, Mueller indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers in a sustained effort to hack the computer networks of the Democratic National Committee, Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in the weeks ahead of the 2016 election. The damaging emails were released by WikiLeaks. At the time, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein claimed the hackers created false online personas, DC Leaks and Guccifer 2.0, in an attempt to disguise the Russian origins of their work. After the election, Stone admitted exchanging direct but benign messages with Guccifer 2.0 over Twitter.
Stone became the 34th person charged by Mueller. Of those people, Mueller had secured guilty pleas from six Trump associates or advisers, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former deputy campaign manager Rick Gates, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, former Trump attorney Michael Cohen and former campaign aide George Papadopoulos.
Trump has vehemently denied all allegations of collusion with Russia during his 2016 presidential campaign and has repeatedly railed against Mueller's investigation into the matter as a politically-motivated "witch hunt" and a "hoax."