Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's federal probe is expected to end Friday with indictments of White House officials. The situation remains fluid, however, as multitudes of bloggers, media pundits and other
For its part mainstream media is preparing to shift modes from investigation to prosecution. Photographers are staking out
According to Dan Froomkin at the Washington Post, if Fitzgerald takes any indictments to a judge today, he would be accompanied by his grand jury foreperson. "So keep an eye out for that," Froomkin advises the expectant media horde. "Also keep an eye out for senior administration officials showing up at the courthouse very, very late at night."
The defining image photogs are waiting for is that most damning of spectacles: the "perp walk."
A contact within the White House press corps tells MediaCitizen that defendants-in-waiting Rove and Libby have set their legal armies maneuvering to avoid the political damage such a public display would wreak for their clients and the White House.
Whether Rove will be indicted or not is unclear, Froomkin writes. "But here's what you need to keep in mind: There is every reason to think that Rove is throwing every move he's got at Fitzgerald in an attempt to escape criminal charges."
The anticipated indictments will list the crimes the defendants allegedly committed and describe the facts the government believes support those allegations. Lawyers close to the investigation say Fitzgerald is considering perjury, obstruction of justice and false statement charges. Fitzgerald’s grand jury indictments would be returned to the DC District Court, which would then issues warrants for arrest.
How soon arrests would follow is unclear. The timing of arrests is often at the discretion of the law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction. In the case of well-represented defendants, arrests are negotiated with prosecutors to limit the public humiliation of the perp walk.
Some prosecutors are more willing to let certain defendants come to court on their own and not in manacles. In 2003, Martha Stewart was allowed to turn herself in without a public display. Six months before Stewart's arrest, authorities with guns seized 78-year-old Adelphia Communications executive John Rigas and his two sons and marched them in chains before the cameras -- even though their attorneys offered to surrender the trio. When former Enron Chairman Ken Lay surrendered following indictments in July 2004, photographers lined up by the dozens to take his picture.
Crime media thrive on such moments. Criminal trials by their very nature don’t offer up the visual dynamics that television news craves. There are no getaway cars careening down county roads, police (and news) helicopters in tow, no flood waters washing away SUVs and mobile homes. Instead we’re left with reporters squinting before the kliegs outside a courthouse. If cameras are allowed inside, they depict a defendant dully seated at the table, lawyers and judges shuffling papers. In the often somnambulant universe of court TV, the perp walk ranks as high drama.
Karl Rove has hired "battle-tested"
Chances are high that Rove and Scooter Libby could face real prosecution. But they’ll also undergo trial by media, which, for many a seasoned politician, is a penalty far worse than incarceration. Being photographed in handcuffs is political cyanide for any hopeful entertaining a future in politics. For veterans such as Rove and Libby these images may become their tombstones.