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Judge in Roger Stone case says she's considering gag order

By ERIC TUCKER and CHAD DAY, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge said Friday that she was considering issuing a gag order in the special counsel's case against longtime Donald Trump confidant Roger Stone, saying the charges should be treated like a serious criminal matter and not a public relations campaign or book tour.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said she had already noticed a significant amount of publicity in the case, including statements Stone himself has made on television asserting his innocence and criticizing as excessive his pre-dawn arrest last week. She said Stone risks tainting a pool of jurors who may ultimately decide his case.

"This is a criminal proceeding, not a public relations campaign," Jackson said. She said she didn't want the parties to be making comments about the case "on the courthouse steps or the talk show circuit."

The judge did not immediately issue an order barring Stone or prosecutors from discussing the case, giving both sides until next week to weigh in. Any gag order would cover statements about the prosecution but, the judge noted, would still leave the conservative radio host free to discuss other topics.

Stone can discuss "foreign relations, immigration or Tom Brady" as much as he wants, the judge said.

Stone, who has pleaded not guilty to felony charges of witness tampering, obstruction and false statements, told reporters Thursday that he was prepared to adhere to a gag order if the judge issued one but that he was also likely to appeal it. One of his lawyers is a noted First Amendment attorney who represented the rap group 2 Live Crew in an obscenity fight that reached a federal appeals court nearly 30 years ago.

Stone did not speak in court Friday except to say "Yes, Your Honor," when asked if he understood that he could not discuss the case with other witnesses.

Stone made the rounds on television last weekend and held a news conference Thursday at a Washington hotel, where he said he was prepared to tell the truth to Mueller but he had no derogatory information about Trump, his longtime friend.

"I have great affection and remain a strong and loyal supporter of the president," Stone said.

He suggested that he was accused of "after-the-fact process crimes," including lying to lawmakers investigating potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign, rather than any illegal collusion.

In a court filing Thursday, prosecutors with Mueller's office said the FBI seized physical devices from his home, apartment and office. They said multiple hard drives containing several terabytes of information have been recovered, including bank and financial records and the contents of numerous phones and computers.

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