Roger Stone would like you to know that Saturday Night Live is the real threat to his fair trial — not his alleged violation of the judge’s gag order with vitriolic posts on Facebook and Instagram.
The longtime Trump advisor’s “lonely voice” runs little risk of biasing his jury compared to the avalanche of “hostile” media coverage he’s received, Stone’s lawyers argued in a filing Thursday evening, adding his posts aren’t actually “statements” of the kind forbidden by the judge, anyway.
“Of more concern should be the Washington Post’s unrelenting coverage of Roger Stone,” the lawyers wrote, pointing to the jury-biasing potential of the “comedic portrayal of Roger Stone by Steve Martin on Saturday Night Live which satirically portrayed Stone as a caricature of himself.”
Stone better hope the judge buys it. If she doesn’t, he may end up spending the coming months in jail awaiting the outcome of his November trial on charges of lying to Congress brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in his Russia investigation.
Prosecutors accused Stone of violating his gag order last week, forwarding screenshots of his Facebook and Instagram feeds to Judge Amy Berman Jackson. Stone, they said, appeared to be pushing media outlets to cover subjects related to his case, and had called on former CIA director John Brennan, an outspoken Trump critic, to be “hung” for treason.
His freedom may now rest on whether Judge Jackson agrees that his Instagram and Facebook activity don’t violate her order against making “statements to the media or in public settings about the Special Counsel’s investigation or this case.”
But what are “statements,” anyway?
Stone’s lawyers argued Thursday that his posts didn’t violate the gag order because they “are not ‘statements.’”
To prove their point, they went through his recent social media activity line-by-line.
On June 18, Stone mentioned an article from the website True Pundit that raised skepticism about Mueller’s findings, and asked “where is” similar coverage from The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and CNN.
“The statement about the Special Counsel’s investigation was made by True Pundit, not Stone,” his lawyers wrote. “Stone’s ‘But where[s]’ were not ‘statements … about the Special Counsel’s investigation.’ They were an inquiry relating to the absence of interest in the True Pundit story.”
The lawyers also noted that in Stone’s post calling for Brennan to be hung, “no comment was made by Stone about the ‘case’ or about the ‘investigation.’”
Unfortunately for Stone, his lawyers’ defense doesn’t look so hot, said Barbara McQuade, Detroit’s former U.S. Attorney.
“These are very weak arguments,” McQuade told VICE News. “Stone’s lawyers find themselves in the very unenviable position of trying to defend conduct that appears indefensible in light of the gag order.”
But even if Judge Jackson decides Stone’s posts were over the line, she may reach for punishments short of revoking his bail, McQuade said.
Such measures could include banning Stone from using social media altogether, while she previously allowed him to raise funds for his legal defense fund.
“It’s quite possible that she’s fed up,” McQuade said. “She already gave him a second chance. I’d be surprised if he gets a third.”
Cover: Roger Stone, former campaign adviser for President Donald Trump, waves as he arrives at federal court for a hearing, Tuesday, April 30, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)