Roger Stone, through his lawyers on Monday night, filed a Notice of Apology, which is not actually a thing but nevertheless had all the trappings of a formal court document, which still doesn’t make it a thing.
Earlier in the day, the former Donald Trump adviser—who has been indicted on charges of obstruction, making false statements, and witness tampering—posted a note to Instagram with the name and face of Amy Berman Jackson, the federal judge overseeing his criminal case. Accompanying the image was a crosshair symbol and a rant about a limited gag order she had imposed on him last week.
“Through legal trickery Deep State hitman Robert Mueller 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.”
Stone deleted the picture later on Monday. He is evidently very sorry for something, as is evidenced in his formal Notice of Apology, which still is not a thing. The signed statement from Stone says, “Please inform the court that the photograph and comment today was improper and should not have been posted. I had no intention of disrespecting the court and humbly apologize to the court for the transgression.”
It’s not at all clear what Stone believed to be improper, as he told CBS News that the deleted image was posted by someone who works for him and wasn’t meant to be threatening. He told the Washington Post that those were not crosshairs in his initial post: “What some say are crosshairs are in fact the logo of the organization that originally posted it—something called corruption central. They use the logo in many photos.” He posted a statement on Instagram saying, “A photo of Judge Jackson posted on my Instagram has been misinterpreted. This was a random photo taken from the Internet. Any inference that this was meant to somehow threaten the Judge or disrespect court is categorically false.” The apology, in short, seems to have been the legal version of Sorry this benign thing hurt your feelings.
On Friday, Jackson had ruled against a motion by Stone to have her replaced as judge on the case, and also imposed a gag order with respect to statements Stone can make at the federal courthouse. In that order she noted that she would be paying attention to Stone’s conduct: “While it is not up to the court to advise the defendant as to whether a succession of public statements would be in his best interest at this time, it notes that one factor that will be considered in the evaluation of any future request for relief based on pretrial publicity will be the extent to which the publicity was engendered by the defendant himself.”
Experts tell me that there is no such thing as a Notice of Apology. Alternet interviewed several longtime lawyers and came up with nothing: “I’ve never seen a ‘notice of apology’ filed before,” said former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti.
“I’ve been doing federal criminal law for 24 years and I’ve never seen anything like this,” agreed Ken White, a defense attorney and legal analyst. “This is not normal.”
Stay tuned for yet more inventive new pleadings from Stone’s legal team, no doubt including a “Notice of I’ve Grifted All My Life and Can’t Stop Grifting Now,” a “Motion to Believe Those Crosshairs Were a Smiley Face,” a “Motion to Turn Back Time to Before I Threatened a Federal Judge Overseeing My Case,” and a “Cross Motion That Nothing Matters Anyway.”