- The Washington Times - Friday, July 14, 2000

The government Thursday said Charles G. Bakaly III, former spokesman for independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr, purposely misled a federal judge about his involvement in media leaks concerning the Monica Lewinsky investigation.

Prosecutor John Griffith, in the opening day of Mr. Bakaly's criminal contempt trial, said the ex-spokesman made "false and misleading" statements to the court on his role in a Jan. 31, 1999, New York Times article quoting "several associates of Mr. Starr" that an indictment of President Clinton could be brought before he leaves office in January.

Mr. Griffith argued in his opening statement that Mr. Bakaly "had been a source or the source of a lot of the information in the article" and sought to "steer [the reporter] toward a historical perspective, but later said he wanted to steer [the reporter] to write that the independent counsel was … actively considering indicting the president."

"He told one of the [FBI] agents that reporters were lazy and needed to be led," Mr. Griffith said.

Mr. Bakaly is accused of making false statements on three occasions in a sworn declaration and causing the Independent Counsel's Office, which vigorously denied leaking any grand jury information about the Lewinsky probe, to make a fourth false statement in its filing concerning the news leak. The trial will resume Friday.

The leaks had been questioned by U.S. District Judge Norma Holloway Johnson, who oversees grand jury matters. The case is being heard before Judge Johnson without a jury.

Defense attorney Michele Roberts said her client did not mislead the court and spoke with the New York Times reporter about the article only to prevent the publishing of damaging information. She told the court Mr. Bakaly "sought with every ounce of his being" to stop the article.

She argued that efforts by Mr. Bakaly to take "affirmative steps" to make his sworn declaration totally accurate were blocked by the Independent Counsel's Office, which she said omitted key information that Mr. Bakaly sought to provide concerning his involvement in the New York Times piece.

Defense attorneys have said that the Independent Counsel's Office refused Mr. Bakaly's request to make his statement more detailed and accurate because it wanted to keep the information from Mr. Clinton's personal attorney, David E. Kendall.

Donald Bucklin, an attorney in Mr. Starr's office in 1999 who helped Mr. Bakaly prepare the declaration, denied making any effort to give the court incorrect information.

Called as a prosecution witness, he said he did not "hide anything" and the declaration was his best attempt to provide the information required by the court.

Mr. Bucklin acknowledged under cross-examination by defense attorney Robert Weinberg that he left out some of Mr. Bakaly's suggested corrections in the declaration, but told the court the leak investigation ordered by Judge Johnson was in a preliminary stage and it was not yet required to be turned over.

He said more information later was made available to the judge.

"I submitted a minimum amount of information, but the declaration was responsive" to the court's order, he said.

Mr. Bucklin also told the court Mr. Bakaly "assured me that he was not" the source for any information in the Times article, but later changed his story and admitted some involvement in the release of information.

Former deputy independent counsel Solomon Wisenberg testified that Mr. Bakaly admitted in an FBI interview he had been a source for some of the information in the Times article, but had denied confirming any of the article's information in the sworn declaration Mr. Starr's office obtained and later submitted to the court.

Mr. Wisenberg called the Times article a "ham-handed attempt to influence impeachment" and Mr. Bakaly's FBI statement was "inconsistent with what he told me."

The defense has argued that Mr. Bakaly's statements at issue were not false, but that if the court believes they were, "Mr. Bakaly is not responsible for and did not cause that falseness."

Mr. Bakaly acknowledged in a pretrial brief he talked with the Times about the story before publication, but said he sought to dissuade the paper from running it.

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