Facing charges in Russia probe, ex-Trump adviser Stone tells judge he abused gag order

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s former political adviser Roger Stone told a court on Thursday that he had abused a gag order imposed following criminal charges against him in the Russian election interference probe with an Instagram post of the judge next to an image that appeared to show the crosshairs of a gun.

FILE PHOTO: Longtime Trump ally Roger Stone gives an interview to Reuters in Washington, U.S., January 31, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

“I abused the order,” Stone told U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson during a hearing to examine whether he should be sanctioned. “I am kicking myself over my own stupidity.”

“Your honor, I can only beseech you to give me a second chance,” Stone said. “Forgive me the trespass.”

Stone has pleaded not guilty to charges of making false statements to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election. Mueller is also investigating possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Moscow officials. Trump denies collusion and Russia denies U.S. allegations it interfered to undermine the American democratic process.

Since his arrest in January, Stone has been free on a $250,000 bond with court permission to travel to certain U.S. cities.

Although criminal defendants typically shun the media spotlight, the 66-year-old self-proclaimed Republican “dirty trickster” has embraced it and made numerous media appearances since his Jan. 25 arrest.

Last week, Jackson prohibited Stone or his attorneys from speaking with the news media or making statements near the federal courthouse about the case, in order to reduce the risk of tainting the jury pool and harming his right to a fair trial.

Stone was still allowed to discuss the case away from the courthouse.

Just days later, Stone posted a photo of Jackson next to the image that looked like crosshairs. He later took down that version and reposted it without the crosshairs, before taking down the post a second time.

“How hard was it to come up with a photo that didn’t have the crosshairs in the corner?” Jackson asked Stone.

Stone said he had asked a volunteer to provide him with a photo and said he did not review it ahead of time.

“I didn’t even recognize it was crosshairs … until it was brought to my attention by a reporter,” Stone said at the hearing.

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Mark Hosenball; additional reporting by Makini Brice; Writing by Tim Ahmann; editing by Grant McCool

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