Jury Hands In Guilty Verdict on Libby
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.
ALEX CHADWICK, host:
I'm Alex Chadwick.
Back with our top story, the conviction of former White House aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby. The former chief of staff for Vice President Cheney was found guilty today on four of the five counts against him - convicted of obstructing justice, lying to FBI, and lying to a grand jury about conversations he had with reporters regarding the name of a CIA agent.
BRAND: I'm joined from the federal courthouse in Washington now by NPR's Ari Shapiro, he's been covering the trial. And, Ari, what's the reaction there to the verdict?
ARI SHAPIRO: Well, you know, this is something people have been waiting for well, since the investigation started years ago, really. The indictment came down October of 2005. And so now finally, everyone was sitting in the courtroom just a couple of minutes after noon today waiting for the verdict. Everybody was very solemn. One of the jurors was wiping her eyes as the verdict was being read. Libby's wife started to cry silently as the juror started saying guilty on the first count, guilty on the second count.
Libby sat motionless, sort of blinking, staring straight ahead. And then after the jury filed out, Libby's wife got up and hugged the entire defense team. The prosecutors didn't show a lot of emotion, but they're understandably very satisfied with the outcome of the case today.
BRAND: And was Mr. Libby immediately taken into custody?
SHAPIRO: No. In fact, the judge said, you know, he poses no flight risk, they're going to let him be on probation for the next few months until his sentencing hearing, which is going to be in early June. The defense team is going to file for a new trial before that happens. They're going to - they have a deadline for filings in May. And so this certainly isn't over yet. Throughout the entire trial, the defense team seemed to be laying the groundwork for a possible appeal. And that now starts into motion today.
BRAND: Well, let's talk about that in a few minutes. But first, let's go over the counts that he was actually convicted of - four of the five. And as I understand it, this was a particularly complicated case. He was never really accused of actually outing CIA operative Valerie Plame, but actually just lying about it to the FBI and prosecutors, correct?
SHAPIRO: That's right. Nobody was charged with outing Plame - for various reasons. One of which is that it's a pretty difficult crime to prove. Libby was the only person charged in connection with this entire investigation, and he was charged with obstructing the investigation, with basically lying under oath to FBI agents and a grand jury about what he knew and when he knew it.
He told the grand jury and FBI agents that he didn't leak Plame's identity to reporters, that he just parroted back to reporters what he had heard from other reporters. When in fact, he has been convicted today of the lie that in fact, he did know Plame's identity, he did give Plame's identity to reporters. And when he was asked about it under oath, he lied - both to the FBI and the grand jury.
BRAND: Now, Ari, any hints as to whose testimony or which testimony was key in the jury's decision. There was a star-studded list of journalists testifying at this trial.
SHAPIRO: Absolutely, high-ranking people in the journalism world, in the government world. But at the end of the day, that counts really centered around conversations that Libby had with two journalists - Tim Russert of NBC News and Matt Cooper of Time magazine.
So those two witnesses were crucial to this case. Libby was convicted on both of the counts, dealing with his conversations with Russert - you could say all three of the counts, because the obstruction of justice charge was both Cooper and Russert; then there was a false statement charge for Russert, a false statement charged for Cooper, a perjury charge for Russert, and a perjury charge to the conversations with Cooper.
The only count that the jury found Libby not guilty on was about lying to the FBI regarding the conversations he had with Matt Cooper. So if you're going to target the place in this trial where the defense was strongest, it was in those discussing and dissecting those Matt Cooper conversations. Russert was key as a witness, and Libby was convicted on those two charges, or arguably three, dealing with his conversations with Tim Russert.
BRAND: Okay and let's talk about, as you mentioned earlier, the grounds for appeal. Where will the defense look for holes in this case as possible ways of reversing this verdict?
SHAPIRO: The judge sort of slapped down the defense a couple of times during the trial. One of them dealt with Andrea Mitchell of NBC News and some comments that she made on television during the investigation - the indictment, this entire process that was being dissected on TV as it was going on. They wanted to introduce some comments that Andrea Mitchell had made into the trial and the judge said that it wasn't relevant. That seems like it's going to be one of the things that they will try to bring up on appeal.
Generally speaking, you know, when a case like this is appealed where there are so many witnesses, so many different arguments, such a convoluted chain of testimony - FBI interviews, grand jury interviews - there's going to be a lot that the defense team will try to dissect as they try to appeal this case and show that in fact, as they argued from the beginning, they're going to say their client didn't intentionally lie. He just misremembered the chain of events. Clearly today, the jury disagreed, finding Libby guilty on four of the five counts he was charged with.
BRAND: NPR's Ari Shapiro. Thank you, Ari.
SHAPIRO: You're welcome.
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BRAND: And there's more coming up on DAY TO DAY. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.