Social media posts? Banned.
Video clips from “The Godfather: Part II?” Banned.
Transcripts from “The Godfather: Part II?” Not banned.
Those are just some of the unusual ground rules set out by Obama-appointed U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson for the widely anticipated trial of former Trump confidant Roger Stone, which begins on Tuesday in Washington.
Stone, a longtime Republican provocateur and part-time fashion critic, is accused of lying about his efforts to obtain Russian-hacked Hillary Clinton emails for political gain.
Immediately after his arrest in a dramatic nighttime raid by a heavily armed federal tactical team in January, Stone was combative and defiant, even flashing the infamous Richard Nixon “V sign” before a throng of photographers. Then, a month later, Stone aroused Jackson’s ire when Stone’s Instagram hosted a photo appearing to show Jackson with gun crosshairs behind her.
“Through legal trickery, Deep State hitman Robert Mueller has guaranteed that my upcoming show trial is before Judge Amy Berman Jackson, an Obama appointed Judge who dismissed the Benghazi charges against Hillary Clinton and incarcerated Paul Manafort prior to his conviction for any crime,” Stone’s post was captioned.
Stone apologized, but Jackson quickly issued a gag order barring Stone from social media — which Stone repeatedly violated, including by calling Mueller “crooked” in a book.
“So what am I supposed to do with you?” an exasperated Judge Jackson said at one pretrial hearing. “It seems as if, once again, I’m wrestling with behavior that has more to do with middle school than a court of law. It’s tempting to ignore it all completely, but if I don’t respect and uphold my own orders, why would I expect anyone else to?”
“What am I supposed to do with you?”
Jackson added: “You’ve shown me that you’re unwilling to stop talking about the investigation, which means that you’re unwilling to conform your conduct to the orders of the court. The goal has been to draw maximum attention to what you view as flaws in the investigation.”
Stone’s indictment in January was an offshoot of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, and Judge Jackson ruled that Stone’s legal team would have access to most of the redacted materials in Mueller’s report in order to prepare his defense.
Stone is not charged with conspiring with WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy website that published emails of Democrats during the 2016 campaign, or with the Russian officers Mueller says hacked them. Instead, he is accused of lying about his interactions related to WikiLeaks’ release during probes by Congress and Mueller’s team.
Trump, for his part, has said Stone has been unfairly targeted. Stone’s arrest at the hands of highly-armed police, the president asserted, was unusual, given that “drug dealers and human traffickers are treated better.” (The president also remarked that it was odd that CNN cameras were in place at the time of the predawn raid.)
A self-proclaimed dirty trickster with a flair for public drama, Stone has a history in Republican political circles dating back to the Nixon administration. He emerged as an early public supporter of Trump and has consistently criticized the case against him.
“I will defeat them in court,” Stone said earlier this year. “This is a politically-motivated investigation.”
Stone, a longtime friend of the president’s, briefly served on Trump’s campaign, but was pushed out amid infighting with campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Though sidelined, he continued to communicate with Trump and stayed plugged into his circle of advisers.
The indictment says Stone repeatedly discussed WikiLeaks in 2016 with campaign associates and lays out in detail Stone’s conversations about emails stolen from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and posted in the weeks before Trump beat Clinton.
After WikiLeaks on July 22, 2016, released hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee, the indictment says, a senior Trump campaign official “was directed” to contact Stone about additional releases and “what other damaging information” WikiLeaks had “regarding the Clinton campaign.” The indictment does not name the official or say who directed the outreach to Stone.
Stone is also accused of threatening New York radio host Randy Credico in an effort to prevent Credico from contradicting Stone’s testimony before the House intelligence committee.
Prosecutors alleged that Stone pressured Credico to “do a Frank Pentangeli” in his testimony, a reference to a character from the 1974 film “The Godfather Part II” who backtracked his plans to provide Congress with an incriminating testimony on the Corleone crime family.
Attorneys for the government suggested playing the “Pentangeli” clip during Stone’s trial. But Judge Jackson ruled last month that doing so could unfairly prejudice jurors.
“The government will not be permitted to introduce the clip itself in its case in chief because the prejudicial effect of the videotape, which includes a number of extraneous matters, outweighs its probative value,” Jackson ruled Monday.
She did say, however, that prosecutors may use a transcript of the scene.
Fox News’ Bradford Betz and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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