Roger Stone to Federal Judge: Don’t Gag Me, and Get Off My Case

(Bloomberg) -- Roger Stone told a federal judge that she can’t legally silence him, in part because he’s not famous like Kim Kardashian. Then, he asked for a new judge to handle his criminal case in Washington.

Stone, the self-described political dirty trickster and adviser to President Donald Trump, was charged with lying to Congress about his communications with WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, as well as obstruction and witness tampering. He pleaded not guilty.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office identified Stone’s case as being related to one filed last year against 12 Russian intelligence agents accused of hacking Democratic Party computers before the 2016 presidential election.

Both are assigned to U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, an appointee of President Barack Obama. At a Feb. 1 court hearing, she warned Stone that his running commentary risk tainting the jury pool for his eventual trial. Jackson said she was inclined to issue an order barring prosecutors, Stone and his lawyers from discussing the case publicly. She gave both sides a Feb. 8 deadline to state their position.

Stone’s attorneys, in one set of papers filed Friday, called such an order presumptively unconstitutional. Then, they brought up the comparison to Kardashian.

"While Roger Stone may be familiar to those who closely follow American politics, he is hardly ubiquitous in the larger landscape of popular consciousness,” his lawyers wrote. “Kim Kardashian has 59.5 million followers on Twitter. By contrast, Roger Stone has no Twitter account at all and, thus has no Twitter followers. On Instagram, Kim Kardashian has 126 million followers. Roger Stone’s Instagram following amounts to 39 thousand subscribers.”

Narrow as his audience may be, that hasn’t stopped the long-time political strategist from speaking out on courthouse steps, cable television and on the internet, a factor the judge acknowledged last week.

"I recognize that the arrest and indictment were public and the defendant may have justifiably felt the need to get his story out," Jackson said. "But there’s no question that at this point he certainly had that opportunity."

While Mueller’s office declined to directly comment on Stone’s filing, in a later submission they told Jackson a narrowly-tailored order restraining both sides from talking about the case would be welcome.

"In light of the substantial national media attention the case has received, which is likely to persist and increase as trial approaches, and the defendant’s efforts to use that attention to his own advantage," less restrictive measures including moving the trial or sequestering the jury are likely to be insufficient, they said.

Stone’s lawyers separately said they want his case taken away from Jackson and randomly reassigned. They accused prosecutors of using the commonality of hacked documents in both matters as a pretext for judge-shopping.

The judge has given Mueller’s office until Feb. 15 to respond to Stone’s request to move the case out of her court.

Jackson is also presiding over Mueller’s Washington federal court case against one-time Trump campaign chairman and Stone business partner Paul Manafort. In that case she slapped Manafort with a gag order.

The case is U.S. v. Stone, 19-cr-18, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

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