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After nearly 10 days of deliberations, a federal jury on Tuesday convicted I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby of four counts of obstruction of justice, perjury, and making false statements. The jury of 11 men and women found the former Bush administration official guilty of obstructing a federal investigation, lying to a grand jury about his July 2003 conversations with NBC’s Tim Russert and former Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper, and lying to the FBI about his conversation with Russert. They acquitted him on one other charge of false statements in connection with what he told the FBI about his conversation with Cooper. Sentencing is scheduled for June 5. While Libby, 56, faces 25 years in prison, it’s more likely he will receive something close to what former White House official David Safavian received after being convicted on four counts of obstruction of justice and making false statements. Safavian received an 18-month sentence. The Libby verdict was a blow to the Bush administration, which had tried to distance itself of wrongdoing from the start of the federal investigation. Indeed, a juror who spoke to the media after the verdict was delivered said the panel came to believe that Libby was a “fall guy” working at the behest of Vice President Dick Cheney. “The jurors said: �What are we doing with Libby? Where’s [Karl] Rove?’” said the juror, Denis Collins. At 11:15 this morning, the jury sent Judge Reggie Walton a note informing him that it had come to a decision. Court was convened 45 minutes later. In a packed courtroom, the foreperson, an accountant at Hogan & Hartson, took the microphone and, while seated, read the verdict. Most jurors were dressed for the occasion — the retired math teacher on the jury was wearing a suit — indicating that they were close to a consensus yesterday evening. When the verdict was read, one juror wept. Libby, however, remained impassive. At one point, one of his lawyers, William Jeffress Jr., put his hands on Libby’s shoulders. “We are very disappointed in the verdict of the jurors,” Libby attorney Theodore Wells Jr. said in a press conference outside the federal courthouse in Washington. Wells said the defense team will file a motion for a new trial and, if that motion is denied, it would appeal. Wells and Libby took no questions and were swarmed by cameramen as they tried to re-enter the courthouse. “Let us by,” Wells said. “We’ve been good to you.”
Click above for more trial coverage. Coverage can also be found on The Blog of Legal Times.

The investigation stems from claims by former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who charged in a 2003 op-ed in The New York Times that the Bush administration misled the country into war. He claimed to know that certain intelligence that Iraq sought uranium from Niger was false because he had been sent there to investigate by the CIA. Less than two weeks later, syndicated columnist Robert Novak published an article disclosing that Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, worked at the CIA and had sent him on the mission. Libby was the only person charged as a result of Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald’s 2 1/2-year investigation into whether classified information about Plame’s CIA employment was illegally leaked to the media. The four-plus weeks of testimony brought a parade of high-profile witnesses, including Cheney’s chief of staff and his national security adviser, CIA officials, former White House press secretaries and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists. The prosecution took about three weeks to make its case, which pitted Libby’s grand jury testimony and FBI statements directly against those of three reporters — Russert, Cooper and former New York Times reporter Judith Miller. The defense rested after barely three days of testimony without calling two promised witnesses: Libby and Cheney. In a press conference after the verdict, Fitzgerald said that his investigation was essentially over, and that he didn’t expect to seek further charges against anyone in the matter. He emphasized that when he took over the investigation he had full knowledge that Libby’s account conflicted with Russert’s. “We couldn’t walk away from that,” he said. He added that what Libby did was “harmful to the system, and that was something serious.” ONE JUROR’S ACCOUNT Collins, 57, a former Washington Post reporter, was the sole juror to give an account of the deliberations. The other 10 jurors declined to speak to the media, but Collins said, after years as a journalist, “I just figured it would be kind of hypocritical for me to walk away.” By his account, jurors gathered each day on the 6th floor of the courthouse, in a room overlooking the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles. The room had two long tables and a few cushioned seats. When they arrived the first Wednesday afternoon, everyone looked at each other without knowing what to do. “They don’t give you a field manual on how to be a juror,” he said. But the jury was a resourceful one, full of methodical panelists who knew how to take charge and break down complicated material into digestible bits. And that is what they did for the first week, gathering large Post-it notes (2 1/2 by 2 feet) with quotes and information concerning the evidence presented. The jury had some meticulous note-takers, Collins said, including one who calculated how many objections had been sustained during Russert’s testimony (25 out of 36). For the first week of deliberations, the jury made no decisions, took no straw polls, but systematically went through the evidence. They asked: Who told the truth? Who lied? Who do we believe? The debate was not about the war. It was not about politics. Collins said he didn’t even know the politics of most jurors during deliberations. (Although he said he learned this morning that at least three were registered independents.) There were “differences of opinion, but no fistfights,” Collins said. (For instance, he said one person thought former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer was a “slick willy,” while Collins didn’t think Fleischer had any motive to lie.) At times, of course, the jury grew restless and would occasionally glance outside at a small stand with hot dogs and half-smokes. “It was like we were in a cocoon. I would forget what day it was,” he said. But in the end, Collins said, it simply came down to the facts, which pointed to a single answer: guilty. “Opinion had very little to do with it,” he said. What stood out most to the jury was Libby’s account that he was “surprised” when he first learned that Valerie Plame worked at the CIA. “The least convincing thing was that Libby was working so hard that he could forget everything,” Collins said. Looking at the Post-its they had amassed, the jury found that in a short period of time Libby had either been told about Plame’s employment, read about it, or told someone else at least nine times. “It seemed very unlikely that he would not have remembered about Mrs. Wilson,” he said. There was, he said, just too much evidence. He singled out the testimony from Marc Grossman, former undersecretary of state, who noted that the information about Wilson’s wife was an “interesting tidbit.” And Collins said that Cheney’s handwritten notes on Wilson’s op-ed questioning whether Plame sent her husband on a “junket” stood out. “It was just very hard not to believe that he could remember on Tuesday and forget on Thursday and then remember two days later,” Collins said, echoing the rhetoric Fitzgerald used during trial. While the jury was inclined to believe that Libby had a bad memory, Collins said John Hannah, Libby’s former national security adviser who testified for the defense, seemed to hurt Libby. Hannah testified that Libby had an “awful memory,” but jurors found that didn’t mesh with his comments that Libby had a strong memory for conceptual issues, Collins said. But when it came to the count about Libby’s statements to the FBI about Cooper, jurors were more skeptical. Their eventual decision to acquit on that charge stemmed from the lack of documentation on Cooper’s part. Cooper had no notes to back up that Libby confirmed Plame’s identity and there was a passage in Cooper’s notes that the defense tried to suggest represented Libby’s explanation of the conversation. While jurors weren’t absolutely convinced about that passage, those questioned “weighed six ounces” and were enough to create “reasonable doubt,” Collins said. On the whole, though, jurors found the key reporters testifying for the prosecution to be credible, he said. Some even thought the defense attorney’s badgering of Miller worked against Libby. “Some said I think she seems nice,” Collins recounted. Jurors put little weight in the parade of journalists that testified for the defense. And even though Libby didn’t testify at trial, Collins said the jury felt very good about having eight hours of his grand jury testimony. Despite their decision, Collins said “We had tremendous sympathy” for Libby. One juror said he didn’t want to be judging Libby. “This sucks,” Collins quoted the juror as saying. “The belief of the jury was that he was tasked by the vice president to talk to reporters,” he said. Yet, Collins emphasized, “This wasn’t about the war . . . This wasn’t a question of who can we punish for going into Iraq.”


Emma Schwartz can be contacted at [email protected].

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