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Gag order issued in case of Trump confidant Stone

Roger Stone speaks to cameras outside a hearing where Google CEO Sundar Pichai testified before the House Judiciary Committee on December 11, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge on Friday issued a gag order in the criminal case of longtime Donald Trump confidant Roger Stone, barring Stone and his lawyers from making comments that could influence a jury. The charges against Stone were brought by the special counsel in the Russia probe.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said the order was necessary to ensure Stone’s right to a fair trial and “to maintain the dignity and seriousness of the courthouse and these proceedings.” The order is narrowly tailored to comments about his pending case and does not constrain Stone from discussing other topics publicly.

The ruling, which applies to both sides in the case, comes after string of media appearance by the outspoken political consultant since his arrest and indictment last month. In several of those interviews, Stone had blasted special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation as politically motivated and criticized his case as involving only “process crimes.”

Jackson had cited those media appearances in raising the prospect of a gag order, warning Stone at a hearing not to treat his case like a “book tour.”

Lawyers for Stone had argued that any limits on his public comments would infringe on his First Amendment right to free speech. They wrote in a filing last week that Stone’s comments wouldn’t merit a “clear and present danger to a fair trial.” Mueller’s prosecutors had said they wouldn’t oppose a gag order.

The 66-year-old Stone was arrested in an FBI raid at his Fort Lauderdale, Florida, home last month. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of lying to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering. The charges stem from conversations 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. But Stone is not accused of directly coordinating with WikiLeaks.

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