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Attorney asks federal appeals court to free jailed author on bond

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  1. Protecting Sources and Materials

    NMU         FIFTH CIRCUIT         Confidentiality/Privilege         Nov 6, 2001    

Attorney asks federal appeals court to free jailed author on bond

  • Vanessa Leggett’s attorney argued that she isn’t a flight risk, so the court should release her while she appeals rulings requiring disclosure of confidential book research.

Arguing that federal prosecutors have made their point by holding author Vanessa Leggett in jail for more than 100 days, her attorney urged the U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans (5th Cir.) on Nov. 5 to free her on bond of no more than $5,000.

Leggett has been incarcerated since July 20 in the Federal Detention Center in Houston for refusing to disclose confidential information to a federal grand jury. A subpoena sought four years of research for a book Leggett planned to write about the murder-for-hire of a Texas socialite.

In his motion for bond, attorney Mike DeGeurin argued that “the government has admitted that their subpoena is merely a ‘fishing expedition.'” His motion states that neither the prosecutor nor the federal district court judge who ordered Leggett to jail anticipated that Leggett would spend more than 100 days behind bars while her appeal was pending.

She should be released on bond because she isn’t a flight risk or a danger to the community, the motion says.

“Ms. Leggett is a writer, college English teacher, law enforcement instructor and wife,” the motion says. “Release from custody would allow her to return to her family, home and work — all located in Houston, Texas.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Terry Clark opposes the motion for bond, the motion says.

Leggett has claimed a reporter’s privilege against revealing confidential sources and information. DeGeurin has argued that courts must balance Leggett’s rights as a journalist against the federal prosecutors’ need for her research.

This is the fourth time DeGeurin has asked federal courts to release Leggett on bond while her appeal proceeds. The federal district court judge who ordered Leggett to jail for contempt refused to set bond, as did a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit and the entire appellate court. DeGeurin’s latest motion is a request that the entire appellate court reconsider its denial of bond.

Leggett’s time in jail will end with the expiration of the grand jury term, which ended on Oct. 12 but was extended to Jan. 7. Leggett also could walk away from jail if she handed over her research notes to the grand jury, but DeGeurin has said she hasn’t wavered in her refusal to do so.

(In re Grand Jury Subpoenas; Author’s counsel: Mike DeGeurin, Foreman, DeGeurin, Nugent & Gerger, Houston) MD

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