Roger Stone ― the Republican strategist and Donald Trump associate indicted on charges stemming from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation ― went after the federal judge presiding over his case on Instagram, publishing her picture next to what appeared to be an image of crosshairs and begging for money from his followers.
In a message that was posted, lambasted, deleted, edited, reposted and re-deleted over the course of a few hours on Monday, Stone claimed that “Deep State hitman Robert Mueller” assigned him Judge Amy Berman Jackson “through legal trickery.”
Stone’s attorneys later in the day filed a “Notice of Apology” from Stone to the judge. “Please inform the Court that the photograph and comment today was improper and should not have been posted,” Stone wrote in a signed letter in the document. “I had no intention of disrespecting the Court and humbly apologize to the Court for the transgression.”
The photo of Jackson, which appears to have originated from an anti-Semitic conspiracy blog, featured the words “Corruption Central” and an image of what appear to be crosshairs next to her head. At the end of his post, Stone urged his followers to “help me fight for my life” at a donation page set up in his name.
“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 wrote.
Stone’s post, which Guardian reporter Jon Swaine characterized as “directly attacking” Jackson, drew instant reproach on social media. One user suggested that Stone was encouraging his followers to injure the judge. Stone then deleted the original post and replaced it with one that cropped out the crosshairs in the photo, and then deleted the second post altogether.
Stone told CBS News reporter Kathryn Watson later on Monday that the “sentiments” in the Instagram post “for [sic] within my first amendment rights,” but that “because it is open to miss interpretation [sic] I’m going to take it down.”
Shortly after that, Stone posted a new message on Instagram with the text: “A photo of Judge Jackson posted on my Instagram has been misinterpreted. This was a random photo taken from the Internet. Any inference that this was meant to somehow threaten the Judge or disrespect court is categorically false.”
On Friday, Jackson issued a gag order in Stone’s case to “maintain the dignity and seriousness of the courthouse and these proceedings,” NPR reported at the time. Stone and his lawyers, however, weren’t forbidden from making public statements.
Stone faces seven criminal charges, including obstruction of an official proceeding, witness tampering and making false statements, each related to his communications with WikiLeaks, which released documents taken during the hack of Democratic National Committee servers in 2016.
Stone’s indictment alleges that he spoke with unidentified “senior Trump campaign officials” about information WikiLeaks had that might damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign. He previously admitted to being in contact with WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange during Trump’s campaign. His lawyer, Grant Smith, said at the time of his indictment that “there was no Russian collusion” and that the charges were “a clear attempt at silencing Roger.”
This article has been updated with information on the apology letter.