- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 3, 2005

I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, pleaded not guilty yesterday to felony charges of lying to the FBI and a federal grand jury when questioned about the leaking of a CIA employee’s identity.

“With respect, your honor, I plead not guilty,” Mr. Libby told U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton during a 10-minute arraignment in U.S. District Court.

Mr. Libby, a lawyer, waived his right to a speedy trial, and one of his attorneys, Theodore Wells, told the court that the defense team needed at least 60 days to get access to classified materials it deems important to the case.

Special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald says Mr. Libby, who faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted, lied to investigators and the grand jury about whether he was the source of information on the CIA identity of Valerie Plame, wife of Iraq war critic and diplomat Joseph C. Wilson IV.

Another member of the Libby defense team, William Jeffress Jr., told Judge Walton that there could be “protracted litigation” concerning the classified documents, but he did not elaborate.

No trial date was set by the judge. Attorneys in the case were told to meet Feb. 3 for a full status hearing.

Top White House officials, including Mr. Cheney and President Bush’s top political adviser, Karl Rove, could be called to testify during the trial. It was not clear yesterday whether any reporters will be compelled to testify, although attorneys for Mr. Libby hinted that the case could involve First Amendment challenges.

The indictment said Mr. Libby obtained information on Mrs. Plame’s identity in June 2003 — after her husband accused the Bush administration of fabricating intelligence data to justify the Iraq war — from Mr. Cheney, the State Department and the CIA. It said he passed the information to New York Times reporter Judith Miller and Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper.

Mr. Libby, in interviews with the FBI and in testimony before the grand jury, said he had obtained the information on Mrs. Plame from NBC newsman Tim Russert, an accusation that Mr. Russert denied. Mrs. Miller, who never wrote a story on the agent, and Mr. Cooper identified Mr. Libby as a source of the information.

Mrs. Plame’s identity was revealed in an article by conservative columnist Robert Novak.

Mr. Libby entered the courtroom on crutches because of a foot injury. After the brief hearing, he was fingerprinted and photographed.

Mr. Fitzgerald told the court that it would take two weeks for prosecutors to present their case, depending on the number of pretrial motions. Mr. Fitzgerald was appointed to investigate the CIA leak two years ago.

Outside the courthouse, Mr. Wells told reporters that his client wanted to “fight the charges in court, not in the press.”

Mr. Wells is no stranger to high-profile cases involving top government officials, having won acquittals for former Agriculture Secretary Michael Espy and former Labor Secretary Raymond Donovan.

Mr. Libby is charged with one count of obstruction of justice, two counts of lying to FBI agents and two counts of perjury before a federal grand jury.

Judge Walton, a registered Republican, was appointed to the federal bench in 2001 by President Bush. He also served as an associate judge of the D.C. Superior Court, named to that post in 1981 by President Reagan, and as associate director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy for the first President Bush. He also was senior White House adviser for crime.

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