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

Friday, February 03, 2006

Trial set for early next year in Libby case - Yahoo! News

By Andy Sullivan and James Vicini

A federal judge on Friday set a January 2007 trial date for a former top White House aide facing perjury and other charges in the leak of a CIA operative's identity, pushing the trial past November's congressional elections.

The judge said jury selection would begin on January 8 in the case of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff. He faces five counts of perjury, making false statements and obstruction of justice.

Libby, who attended the hearing, has pleaded not guilty to the charges, which stem from a special prosecutor's investigation into who in the Bush administration leaked CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity to the news media in 2003, effectively ending her career at the spy agency.

Her identity was disclosed after her husband, diplomat Joseph Wilson, accused the Bush administration of twisting intelligence on weapons of mass destruction to justify the war in Iraq.

President George W. Bush's main political adviser, Karl Rove, remains under investigation in the Plame case.

A trial could put a spotlight on how the White House made its case for the Iraq war and raise questions about the role of the news media and whether reporters should have to testify in court.

Lawyers on both sides of Libby's case said they needed time to examine classified government material, resolve a dispute over what evidence should be shared and address legal issues over the involvement of reporters who may have to testify at trial.

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton had said he had hoped to start the trial in early September. That would have placed the monthlong trial right before the November elections in which corruption and the Iraq war will be key issues.


Walton, a Bush appointee, said Libby's main lawyer would be tied up with a 10-week trial around September and instead set the date for early January.

Walton asked Libby if he accepted the yearlong wait before a trial. "Yes," the somber-looking Libby said from the defense table in the only time he spoke during the 45-minute hearing.

Afterward, prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald declined to comment but defense lawyer Theodore Wells said he was happy with the trial date.

"The January 8 date will permit us the time we need to prepare Mr. Libby's defense," Wells told reporters.

Fitzgerald told the judge he had turned over all relevant information, including an additional 1,000 pages this week, but Wells urged the judge to force Fitzgerald to turn over even more material.

"We believe there are thousands and thousands and thousands of pages that Mr. Fitzgerald is in possession of that he has decided not to give to us," Wells said.

Wells said in the next three weeks he expected to file a motion arguing that the indictment should be dismissed. He gave no details.

Wells said it was taking longer than expected to review the classified material because defense lawyers do not have a special photocopier.

Deciphering Libby's handwritten notes posed a challenge to the prosecution, Wells said.

"We're trying to work something out where Mr. Libby can help them read his notes," he said.


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