Libby Pleads Not Guilty in CIA Leak Probe
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff pleaded not guilty today to a five-count indictment stemming from the leak of a CIA officer's identity. Lewis Libby is charged with obstruction of justice, perjury and making false statements. He was indicted last Friday and resigned his position. NPR's Laura Sullivan was in the federal courthouse in downtown Washington, DC, and she joins me now.
And, Laura, tell us what happened in the courtroom this morning?
LAURA SULLIVAN reporting:
Well, it was pretty short and sweet. Libby hobbled to the lectern on his crutches. He pleaded not guilty. It was in a big ceremonial courtroom that was packed with lots of reporters and a lot of spectators as well. He was there with his original legal team as well as a new legal team.
MONTAGNE: And he was on crutches, obviously, because he broke--he broke something playing sports.
SULLIVAN: Yeah, he was having a lot of trouble with the crutches. He had to keep getting up and down and moving--try to move in these small quarters.
MONTAGNE: Right. Tell us about Lewis Libby's new legal team?
SULLIVAN: He has hired Ted Wells and William Jeffries. Ted Wells is a well-known criminal lawyer. He is a master in front of the jury. William Jeffries is an experienced white-collar criminal defense, corporate law attorney. He has a lot of expertise in extortion, money laundering and perjury. These are trial lawyers and they are expensive.
MONTAGNE: And it sounds like this is signaling a new strategy. Maybe give us what the old one was and tell us what might have changed?
SULLIVAN: Well, it's interesting. Up until now Joseph Tate, his original attorney, maintained almost radio silence with Patrick Fitzgerald, the special counsel. And there was no contact between the two teams, but today when his new legal team entered the courtroom, Ted Wells went right up to Patrick Fitzgerald, introduced himself, they chatted for about 10 minutes. There was some laughing going on. And then after the proceedings, he went back up to Fitzgerald and said, `Please introduce me to the rest of your team.' And Fitzgerald said, `Oh, OK.' And he went down the row and introduced him to all the attorneys. So it's definitely a different strategy in the sense that he's reaching out to them, there's going to be a lot of contact now and it won't be as separate as it was before.
MONTAGNE: And when you talk about this sort of change in--it sounds like almost a demeanor or of reaching out, what does that mean in sort of courtroom terms?
SULLIVAN: Well, it hasn't served Libby very well to have such distance between his attorney and Fitzgerald. They were not--they didn't ask for any meetings, they weren't aware of where Fitzgerald was going, unlike what you saw with Karl Rove. His attorney maintained almost weekly contact with Fitzgerald's office and escaped indictment. So in this sense when you have a closer interaction with the prosecutor's office, you know where they're heading. It could help if he tries to plea out in this case and it can help to sort of maintain good relations.
MONTAGNE: So his new attorney, Ted Wells, has said that he intends to clear Lewis Libby's good name. What does that mean? What happens next?
SULLIVAN: Well, every indication that we've had today is that they are going to trial, that they want to take this up, they want--that Libby Lewis is innocent of these charges. And, you know, it's going to be a long time out because they have to get classified clearance for his attorney, so the next time they're going to be in court is not until February 3rd. And even then it's going to be months after that before a trial would even start because they have to review all the classified material and they also said they're going to have First Amendment issues, meaning that they're going to have to subpoena reporters' records.
MONTAGNE: Laura, thanks very much.
SULLIVAN: Thank you.
MONTAGNE: NPR's Laura Sullivan talking to us from outside the federal courthouse in Washington, DC.
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