- The Washington Times - Monday, September 3, 2001

HOUSTON — Attorneys for a jailed Houston writer will file motions early this week asking that an appeal handed down by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals two weeks ago be considered by all 14 judges.

Meanwhile, free-lance writer Vanessa Leggett, 33, who has spent 42 days in a federal detention center here, remains upbeat and confident that somehow she will be released, said her attorney, Mike DeGeurin.

Mrs. Leggett has refused to turn over notes and interview tapes she made over a period of nearly four years to a federal grand jury — materials she planned to turn into a book about a highly publicized Houston murder.

After Mrs. Leggett was jailed in July, Mr. DeGeurin appeared unsuccessfully before a three-judge panel, which ruled that every citizen, journalist or not, must comply with a federal grand jury subpoena. That is the ruling Mr. DeGeurin will contest this week.

The crux of the situation revolves in part around interviews Mrs. Leggett had with Roger Angelton, a Houston con man who had been accused of capital murder in the death of his sister-in-law, socialite Doris Angelton, on April 16, 1997. Interviews with as many as 35 others also are involved.

Police and prosecutors charged Roger Angelton and his brother Robert the dead woman's husband with capital murder, theorizing that Robert Angelton, a local millionaire and one-time bookie, had hired his brother Roger to kill Mrs. Angelton to prevent her from receiving millions of dollars in a divorce settlement.

Robert Angelton was acquitted after a lengthy 1998 trial. Roger Angleton was awaiting trial when he agreed to be interviewed by Mrs. Leggett for a book.

In the interviews, he said his brother, Robert, had played no role in the murder and that he, Roger, had killed the woman and falsely implicated Robert.

Roger later committed suicide in jail and left notes confessing to the slaying.

Mrs. Leggett's attorney, Mr. McGeurin, said federal officials, now trying to charge Robert Angelton with federal crimes, simply want his clients' tapes and interview notes to see if anything there would help their case. Testimony a few days ago indicated the officials were leaning toward filing racketeering charges against Robert Angleton.

"Totally a fishing expedition, and one that should not be allowed or condoned," said Mr. DeGeurin.

The jailing of Mrs. Leggett on July 20 for civil contempt rallied journalists the world over. Several media organizations have condemned the government's actions.

When one hearing before an appeals court here on Aug. 15 was scheduled to be closed to the public, several news organizations intervened, demanding the hearing be open which it eventually was.

Federal prosecutors have argued that Mrs. Leggett is not really a journalist and therefore does not fall under the First Amendment's protection of the media.

Mr. DeGeurin said in an interview that their claim is false. He said his client has authored magazine articles, short stories and entered writing contests.

Mr. DeGeurin agreed that law enforcement's need to obtain evidence and facts and the media's occasional need to offer anonymity to sources sometimes collide, but that in most such conflicts in recent years, the courts have ruled with "balance."

One consideration often given, he said, was whether the material in question was relevant, and whether the authorities could have obtained that material or evidence through normal investigative channels.

Mr. DeGeurin said Mrs. Leggett had promised confidentiality to some of her interview subjects, and saw no reason why the authorities couldn't gather all the information Mrs. Leggett collected.


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