A federal judge set a Nov. 5 trial date for Roger Stone on charges of lying to Congress and obstructing justice in a Thursday hearing where she also postponed any decision of whether a new book by the longtime GOP operative and Trump confidant violated a gag order in his case.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington said the trial would be expected to last at least two weeks on the accusations that Stone lied about his efforts to gather information about hacked Democratic Party emails during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Stone, 66, has pleaded not guilty and remains free pending trial with travel limitations.
Jackson said she was setting aside for now her assessment of explanations from Stone’s attorneys about delays and misrepresentations about the release date of a book by Stone with an updated introduction that criticizes special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
“I don’t intend to dwell on it this morning,” said Jackson, who on Wednesday completed sentencing in the Mueller prosecution of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. “I really have not had the opportunity . . . to study the exhibits in any detail so I will continue to review them and decide if I have any questions.”
Jackson in February ordered Stone to stop talking publicly about his case — and the parties involved in it — to try to tamp down pretrial publicity that could affect seating an impartial jury.
Her full gag order on Stone also followed a posting on Stone’s Instagram account of an image that court security officials said appeared to place a gun sight’s crosshairs next to Jackson’s face. Stone said the image was a Celtic cross.
Stone was brought into court after the Instagram incident and apologized to Jackson, who put him under tighter restrictions on what he could say about his case.
The book dispute followed soon after, with his attorneys apologizing Monday for “confusion” in a March 1 court filing that had said the book was due for “imminent release,” phrasing Jackson suggested could appear to be an attempt to build publicity for the book.
On Monday, Stone’s attorneys, led by Bruce S. Rogow of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., denied using the filing to spike interest in the book, which had been available online since Feb. 19, before the gag order, they noted.
Stone had planned the book update for weeks, Rogow said in court filings, but it was only after the Feb. 21 gag order was in place that Stone “reminded” his attorneys of the book and “brought the issue home.”
“There was/is no intention to hide anything,” Stone’s defense said in explaining how the book did not come up during the hearings Jackson held sorting through the need and terms of a gag order.
“Having been scolded,” about representations about the book, “we seek only to defend Mr. Stone and move ahead without further ado,” his attorney wrote.
Stone’s new book introduction attacks Mueller as “crooked” and accuses “Deep State liberals” of seeking to silence him.
Mueller prosecutor Jeannie Rhee said at the Thursday hearing that five days after the gag order, Stone and a member of his defense team were notified by his publisher that most of 13,000 to 14,000 copies of the book had been shipped to stores, although they had “not been selling particularly well so far,” and had been available online since Feb. 19
“So what they told me on March 1,” that the book’s release was imminent, “you’re saying there is evidence they knew before then that it was already accomplished?” Jackson said.
“That is what the document on its face seems to represent,” Rhee said, adding that emails seem to contradict Stone’s statement that he did not have direct communication with his publisher after the gag order and could not recall when the books were available.
Jackson set another pretrial hearing is set for April 30, after Stone defense attorney Robert C. Buschel said the government had turned over voluminous evidence.
She did not indicate when she would weigh in on the dispute over the dates of the book release.