NEWS MEDIA UPDATE · WASHINGTON, D.C. · Confidentiality/Privilege · March 6, 2007
Libby found guilty on four of five charges
March 6, 2007 · After 10 days of deliberations, a jury today found former White House aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby guilty of one count of obstruction of justice, two counts of perjury, and one count of lying to FBI investigators.
Libby was acquitted of one charge of lying to investigators. He faces up to 30 years in prison.
The verdict signals the end of a trial that has uncomfortably exposed the methods and inner workings of both the administration and the news media.
The charges against Libby, who served as chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney until 2005, stemmed from a 2003 investigation into the leak of former CIA operative Valerie Plame’s identity to the press.
The leak was characterized as a political attack on Plame’s husband, Joe Wilson, a former ambassador and an outspoken Bush administration critic.
In July 2003, Wilson’s New York Times op-ed “What I Didn’t Find in Africa” questioned the administration’s claim that Iraq attempted to buy Nigerian uranium for nuclear weapons.
Eight days later, columnist Robert Novak publicly revealed Plame’s identity as a CIA operative and cited two unnamed administration officials as his sources. Several other journalists, including Time’s Matt Cooper, subsequently reported receiving the same information.
Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was appointed to investigate the leak in the fall of 2003. Fitzgerald subpoenaed several journalists, including Cooper and former New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who at first refused to testify or reveal their sources. Miller spent 85 days in prison before receiving a waiver of confidentiality from her source, Libby.
Although no administration official was ever indicted for actually leaking Plame’s identity, a grand jury indicted Libby on charges of obstruction of justice, perjury, and lying to investigators in October 2005.
Libby’s trial began in January and featured the testimony of 10 prominent journalists, including Miller, Cooper, Novak and NBC’s Tim Russert.
The jury found that Libby lied to a federal grand jury about his conversations with both Russert and Cooper. The jury also determined that Libby lied to investigators about his conversations with Russert, but acquitted him of a charge that he lied about his conversations with Cooper.
Defense lawyers asserted that Libby recalled the conversations to the best of his knowledge, but that a heavy workload and faulty memory created the inconsistencies.
According to reports, Libby had little visible reaction to the verdict. Defense attorneys have said that they will ask for a new trial and then appeal the convictions if that motion is denied. These are common procedural steps in criminal proceedings.
Libby will remain free until his sentencing hearing, which is scheduled for June 5.
Plame and Wilson have also filed a civil lawsuit against Libby, Cheney, Karl Rove and former deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage. It is likely that reporters will again be called to testify in that case.
(United States v. Libby) — ES