- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 18, 2000

Independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr's former spokesman denied yesterday misleading a court about media leaks concerning the Monica Lewinsky probe but said Mr. Starr's office blocked his efforts to ensure the accuracy of a court filing explaining his role.

Charles G. Bakaly III, testifying on the third day of his criminal contempt case, told U.S. District Judge Norma Holloway Johnson he sought to expand a sworn declaration submitted to the court by Mr. Starr's office, but lawyers who prepared the document did not include his edits which he said would have more fully explained his actions.

He testified that the Starr filing gave the impression he had provided no information to reporter Don Van Natta Jr. for a Jan. 31, 1999, story in the New York Times when, in fact, he had given Mr. Van Natta what he described as public documents.

Mr. Bakaly described the Starr filing as "false and misleading," adding that lawyers for the independent counsel's office including Donald Bucklin did not want to provide information to President Clinton's attorney, David E. Kendall, who had accused the office of leaking grand-jury information in the Lewinsky probe.

While acknowledging giving the Times some information, he denied under direct examination by his attorney, Michelle Roberts, that he ever leaked grand-jury information in the Lewinsky case to the media.

The New York Times article quoted "several associates of Mr. Starr" saying an indictment of Mr. Clinton could be brought before he leaves office in January and that several prosecutors in the office had urged the independent counsel go forward on the case.

Mr. Bakaly is accused of making false statements on three occasions in a sworn declaration and causing the independent counsel's office to make a fourth false statement in its filing concerning the news leak. The trial began last week and will resume today.

Under cross-examination by prosecutor John Griffith, Mr. Bakaly acknowledged that he was one of the "associates" referred to in the article and admitted not telling Mr. Starr or others he had given the Times information including a redacted copy of Watergate decisions involving the possibility of indicting a sitting president.

Mr. Griffith also challenged comments Mr. Bakaly made to ABC's "Good Morning America" the day after the Times article, when Mr. Bakaly said information in the article "did not come from our office; it is not our story."

"When you said it was not our story, that was not right, was it Mr. Bakaly?" Mr. Griffith asked. "That was not a true statement."

"I was focusing on grand-jury information, that was what I was referring to," Mr. Bakaly said, adding that he had given the Times other information but nothing that would have been precluded by law or consisted of private internal documents.

Mr. Bakaly also acknowledged under cross-examination that he suggested to colleagues during a meeting called after the Times article appeared the names of at least three others who could have leaked the information.

"But you didn't feel a need to go through the article [at that meeting] to tell anyone you were a source or may have been a source for some information?" Mr. Griffith asked.

"No, not at that point," Mr. Bakaly said.

Mr. Griffith also suggested during his cross-examination that Mr. Bakaly knowingly leaked information to the Times while the Senate trial of Mr. Clinton was under way as part of an effort to "send a message" that the Starr probe would continue after the impeachment trial ended.

Judge Johnson, who oversees grand-jury matters, is hearing the case without a jury.

Last week, Mr. Bucklin denied giving the court incorrect information, saying he did not "hide anything" and the declaration was his best attempt to provide information required by the court. He acknowledged under cross-examination by defense attorney Robert Weinberg leaving out some of Mr. Bakaly's edits, but said a leak inquiry ordered by Judge Johnson was in only a preliminary stage.

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