News and events revolving around the ousting of CIA agent Valerie Plame.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Top News Article |

By Adam Entous

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Vice President Dick Cheney's former aide, Lewis Libby, pleaded not guilty on Thursday to charges stemming from the CIA leak probe, setting the stage for a politically damaging trial that could put a spotlight on the White House's use of prewar intelligence on Iraq.

"With respect, your honor, I plead not guilty," Libby told federal Judge Reggie Walton after asked how he would plead on the charges during a 10 minute arraignment.

Walton set a full status hearing in the case for February 3.

Cheney and other top White House officials could be called to testify at a trial and Libby faces a maximum sentence of up to 30 years in prison.

Libby resigned last week as Cheney's longtime chief of staff after he was indicted on five counts of obstructing justice, perjury and lying in the two-year investigation into the leak of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity.

Plame's identity was leaked to the media in July 2003 after her diplomat husband, Joseph Wilson, accused the Bush administration of twisting intelligence on weapons of mass destruction to justify the war in Iraq.

Before any trial, Libby could still try to cut a deal with special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald on lesser charges, lawyers involved in the case said.

President George W. Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, was not indicted last Friday along with Libby. But lawyers involved in the case said Rove remained under investigation and may still be charged in the case. Fitzgerald is expected to inform Rove of his decision in coming weeks.

Libby's indictment was a damaging blow to the White House, which was already reeling from the mounting U.S. death toll from the Iraq war, the bungled response to Hurricane Katrina and the withdrawal of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers under fire from Bush's conservative power base.

Hours before his arraignment, Libby brought in prominent criminal defense lawyer, Theodore Wells, according to court documents.

Wells, who is known for his trial work, has defended former Agriculture Secretary Michael Espy, former Labor Secretary Raymond Donovan, former Sen. Robert Torricelli and financier Michael Milken. He also brought in Washington lawyer William Jeffress, who is also known for white-collar criminal defense work.

Libby walked into the courthouse near the U.S. Capitol using crutches because of a foot injury.

(Additional reporting by James Vicini)

© Reuters 2005. All Rights Reserved.


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