A US federal judge set a criminal trial for US President Donald Trump’s former adviser Roger Stone for November 5, and cautioned the Republican political operative that he needed to comply with a gag order.
Mr Stone, a self-proclaimed political “dirty trickster”, pleaded not guilty on January 29 to lying to Congress, obstructing an official proceeding, and witness tampering. Those charges were brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team in its probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Mr Stone is a longtime Trump ally and advised his campaign.
US District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson had previously tightened a gag order limiting Mr Stone’s public comments on the case after he posted a photo of her on his Instagram account next to an image resembling the crosshairs of a gun.
That order still stands, she told Mr Stone at yesterday’s hearing on the case, but he must follow it. “I expect compliance,” Judge Jackson said.
Earlier this week, attorneys for Mr Stone apologised for misrepresenting plans about his book criticising Mr Mueller, but they said their mistake was unintentional and does not mean the court will be unable to seat an impartial jury in Mr Stone’s criminal trial.
In a seven-page filing and 120 pages of emails and documents submitted at the request of Judge Jackson of Washington, attorneys for Mr Stone acknowledge that the gaffe could land him in jail if the judge finds he violated a gag order in his case barring him from feeding prejudicial pretrial publicity. But they denied using an erroneous March 1 filing notifying the court of the “imminent release” of the book – after the judge imposed the gag order on February 21 – to build publicity for the work, ‘The Myth of Russian Collusion’, a retitled version of his earlier book about Trump’s 2016 campaign, with a new introduction.
“There was/is no intention to hide anything,” wrote Mr Stone’s attorneys, led by Bruce Rogow of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “Having been scolded, we seek only to defend Mr Stone and move ahead without further ado.”
Mr Stone (66) is accused of lying to Congress and obstructing justice to cover up his efforts to gather information concerning hacked Democratic Party emails during the 2016 presidential campaign. He has pleaded not guilty and remains free pending trial, but he is under the gag order and has travel limitations.
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