Stone says he should be free to speak in Russia probe case

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WASHINGTON | A federal judge shouldn’t bar longtime Donald Trump confidant Roger Stone from making public statements about his criminal case in the Russia investigation, his attorneys argued in court papers filed Friday.

FILE – In this Feb. 1, 2019 file photo, former campaign adviser for President Donald Trump, Roger Stone, leaves federal court in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson is considering issuing a gag order that would prevent both sides in the case from making public statements that could have a prejudicial effect on potential jurors while allowing Stone to publicly opine on other matters. But Stone’s attorneys say that any limits on Stone’s public comments would infringe on his First Amendment right to free speech.

The filing comes after Jackson admonished Stone not to treat his criminal case like a “book tour” after he made several post-indictment talk show appearances attacking special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation as politically motivated.

In the latest filing, Stone’s attorneys write that his comments don’t merit a “clear and present danger to a fair trial.” They also downplay his fame, citing as evidence that his Instagram following is only a fraction of celebrity Kim Kardashian’s.

“While Roger Stone may be familiar to those who closely follow American politics, he is hardly ubiquitous in the larger landscape of popular consciousness,” Stone’s attorneys wrote.

Stone was arrested in an FBI raid at his Fort Lauderdale, Florida, home last month. He is charged with lying to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering related to discussions he had during the 2016 election about WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy group that released material stolen from Democratic groups including Hillary Clinton’s campaign. U.S. intelligence agencies have said that Russia was the source of the hacked material, and last year Mueller charged 12 Russian intelligence officers in the hacking.

Prosecutors have tied that case to Stone’s, saying they share a common search warrant and involve activities that are “part of the same alleged criminal event or transaction.” But they have not accused Stone of being directly involved in any Russian election conspiracy.

The judge was assigned Stone’s case because of its relation to a hacking indictment case in which she also presides. But in a separate filing Friday, Stone argued prosecutors have not produced sufficient evidence to show the relation of the two cases. And Stone, who has pleaded not guilty, asks that the judge allow his case to be randomly assigned.

Prosecutors have yet to respond to either of Stone’s filings.

Stone, who remains free on $250,000 bond, has said he did nothing more than exercise his First Amendment rights to drum up interest with voters about the WikiLeaks disclosures. He also has denied discussing the issue with Trump.