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Judge in Roger Stone case orders hearing after he appeared to threaten her on Instagram

Roger Stone in December 2018. Bloomberg photo by Al Drago.

WASHINGTON - A federal judge has demanded Roger Stone explain why the conditions of his release and freedom to talk about the charges against him should not be changed days after he posted a photograph of that judge to his Instagram page that included her name, a close-up of her face and what appeared to be the crosshairs of a gun sight near her head.

Stone deleted the initial picture soon afterward, then reposted it without the crosshairs before deleting that second post as well.

He later said he did not mean to threaten the judge overseeing his criminal case. In a letter to Judge Amy Berman Jackson, he apologized and called the picture "improper."

But Jackson has scheduled a hearing for Thursday afternoon, saying Stone must "show cause . . . as to why the media contact order entered in this case and/or his conditions of release should not be modified or revoked."

Jackson is presiding over Stone's criminal trial, in which he has pleaded not guilty to charges of lying about his efforts to gather information about hacked 2016 Democratic Party emails that were published by WikiLeaks.

In a text message to The Washington Post on Monday, Stone said the photograph of Jackson had been posted by a "volunteer" who helps him with his social media accounts.

"The photo has been misinterpreted and in no way did I mean to threaten the judge or disrespect the court." Stone wrote. "[It] is a random photo selected from the Internet and was posted at my direction. Because it was open to misinterpretation I have ordered it taken down."

Stone also appeared on the Infowars show War Room, where he reiterated the post had been misinterpreted and blamed the media for doing so.

"The fake news continues to make me a favorite target. This latest tempest is a perfect example about it," he said.

"I took it down because it was open to misinterpretation and there's a thousand stories now from the usual suspects saying, Roger Stone posted a photo of Judge Jackson with a crosshairs on it," he said. "That is false. That was not my intention, and I apologize if anyone got that impression. That was not the intent of my posting."

He said he did not intend to threaten or disrespect the judge.

Jackson imposed the gag order Friday, telling Stone that he could not make statements to the media about his case near the federal courthouse in Washington, D.C., but imposing no other restrictions on his ability to make public comments.

The judge put greater constraints on attorneys and potential witnesses, telling them not to make statements that could prejudice jurors.

In the text accompanying the first post, Stone referred to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who brought the case against him. "Through legal trickery Deep State hit man Robert S. Mueller III has guaranteed that my upcoming show trial is before Judge Amy Berman Jackson," Stone wrote, adding that Jackson is "an Obama appointed judge" and the "#fixisin."

The U.S. Marshals Service, which provides security to federal judges, did not respond to a request for comment.

Stone also disputed that the original post included crosshairs.

"What some say are crosshairs are in fact the logo of the organization that originally posted it - something called corruption central," Stone told The Post. "They use the logo in many photos."

The photograph does appear on at least one far-right blog, emblazoned with the crosshairs-like logo.

However, in a Monday court filing, Stone's lawyers formally apologized for the post.

"Undersigned counsel, with the attached authority of Roger J. Stone, hereby apologizes to the Court for the improper photograph and comment posted on Instagram today," the filing reads. "Mr. Stone recognizes the impropriety and had it removed."

Stone has used the possibility of a gag order as a cudgel to attack the special counsel's office. Earlier this month, Stone posted a photo of himself on Instagram with what appeared to be a large piece of gold tape over his mouth.

Beneath the photo, he wrote: "Now an Obama-appointed Judge wants to gag me so I can't defend myself from the many media leaks by the Mueller hit squad . . . My lawyers are fighting this effort to abridge my First Amendment Rights."

In the days leading up to Jackson's courthouse-vicinity gag-order decision, Stone and his family members frequently argued that a gag order would limit his ability to raise money for his legal defense fund.

In a Feb. 8 fundraising letter, Stone's wife, Nydia Stone, wrote: "The same Obama appointed judge who put [former Trump campaign chairman] Paul Manafort in solitary confinement before his being convicted of any crime is now considering issuing a gag order so that my husband can no longer publicly raise money for his legal defense - that's why it is important that you rush me your answer today." She underlined the sentence for emphasis.

Jackson is the same judge who ruled last week that Manafort - Stone's longtime friend and former business partner - lied to Mueller's prosecutors.

In past messages to The Washington Post, Stone has struck a more conciliatory note, writing on the day of the partial gag order, "I am pleased that the judge's order leaves my first amendment right to defend myself in public intact."

"I will, of course, continue to be judicious about my comments regarding the case," he added.

This article was written by Reis Thebault, Manuel Roig-Franzia and Rachel Weiner, reporters for The Washington Post.