October 22, 2019 / 5:51 PM / 22 days ago

Trump adviser Stone loses bid to lift court-imposed gag order as trial looms

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump’s former adviser Roger Stone lost a last-ditch effort on Tuesday to lift a court-imposed gag order barring him from posting on social media or discussing his criminal case slated to begin next month.

FILE PHOTO: Roger Stone, longtime political ally of U.S. President Donald Trump, arrives for a hearing to convince a judge to dismiss charges stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, at U.S. District Court in Washington, U.S., May 30, 2019. REUTERS/Al Drago/File Photo

In a unanimous ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit refused to overturn the gag order imposed by a lower court, saying Stone and his family had “failed to avail themselves of adequate alternative remedies” to address their concerns that the gag order violated Stone’s First Amendment free speech.

Bruce Rogow, the lead attorney on Stone’s defence team, told Reuters in an email he was “disappointed” by Tuesday’s ruling.

Stone has pleaded not guilty to federal charges of making false statements to Congress, obstruction of justice and witness tampering.

The charges stemmed from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, and the case is now being handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.

The upcoming Nov. 5 trial for Stone, a long-time Republican political strategist and self-described “agent provocateur” and “dirty trickster,” is widely expected to be filled with quirky moments that are not typically seen in a criminal case.

Most recently, for instance, prosecutors and Stone’s defence team tussled over whether the government could play a clip for the jury from the movie “The Godfather Part II” because Stone, in text messages sent to a witness in his case, made reference to a character from the film who pressures someone to give false testimony to Congress.

U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that the government can show the jury a transcript, but that showing the clip itself would be too prejudicial to Stone’s defence.

Jackson is the same judge who imposed a stringent gag order on Stone in July that banned him from making any posts on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

The broad social media ban was put in place after Stone was found to have repeatedly violated two less stringent gag orders that had been imposed previously.

In the first instance, Jackson in February ordered Stone to stop publicly talking about the case after he posted what appeared to be a threatening photo of her next to the image of gun crosshairs on his Instagram account.

Then in July, Jackson curbed his speech even further after prosecutors presented multiple examples in which Stone had continued posting articles and commentary about the case against him, including disparaging comments about House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff.

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Bill Berkrot

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