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A federal judge struck a blow to the government’s perjury case against I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby Jr. last week, rejecting its proposed method for admitting classified documents into trial evidence. The ruling by Judge Reggie Walton of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia comes as the two sides prepare for Sept. 27 hearings on the admissibility of classified documents at the trial, which is scheduled to begin in January. Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald had asked the court to use a higher standard to decide what documents to admit at trial. Fitzgerald asked Walton to bar classified material unless the judge found that the documents were relevant and “helpful to the defense” and that their aid to the defendant outweighed the government’s need to protect classified information. “The court cannot accept the government’s position,” Walton wrote in his Sept. 21 order. “Here, the government is advocating a standard similar to the one rejected by Congress. Not only does the government’s argument lack support in the legislative history, but with one exception . . . its position is not supported by the existing case law.” The two sides have long fought over access to classified evidence. Prosecutors say its admissibility would harm national security, while Libby’s lawyers claim such material is critical to his defense. Earlier this year, Walton permitted Libby to review a select number of documents. Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, faces charges of obstructing justice and lying about how he learned the identity of former CIA officer Valerie Plame and what he told reporters about her.
Emma Schwartz can be contacted at [email protected].

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