Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Will Rove and Libby Walk the Perp?

Run, Don't Walk
According to The Washington Note and others, as many as five indictments will be issued today in the investigation into White House leaks regarding CIA agent Valerie Plame. The targets of the investigation received letters from Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald on Tuesday, The Note's Steven Clemons reports, and their indictments will be sealed and delivered to the courthouse today.

If indeed today is indictment day, the media’s image machine will shift gears from investigation to prosecution and line up their photographers to capture the defining event -- that most damning of spectacles: the "perp walk."

Broadcast journalists reportedly have been staking out the courthouse all day. But, 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 media horde. "Also keep an eye out for senior administration officials showing up at the courthouse very, very late at night."

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 media display would wreak for their clients and the White House.

Froomkin puzzles over Rove's fate: Whether Rove will be indicted or not is unclear, he 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.

Kenny Boy
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.

Shit Eater
After a warrant was issued for the arrest of Congressman Tom DeLay (R-TX) his lawyer skillfully outflanked the media by switching DeLay’s surrender from one courthouse to another. Reporters and photographers, who had staked out the Fort Bend County Jailhouse for days, were left in their news vans as Delay waltzed into the courthouse in adjacent Harris County. But Delay's perp-walk dodge backfired when he gave the media a present from the vaults: a shit-eating mug shot that’s proved equally his undoing.

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" Washington litigator Robert Luskin to make his client's case before the cameras. Luskin -- who brings the considerable resources of powerhouse Washington firm Patton Boggs to Rove's aide -- previously represented a money launderer for Colombian drug cartels. His talent for spin and burnishing client reputations before the media will be in demand from Rove.

Roll Call gossip columnist Mary Ann Akers writes that Fitzgerald was spotted Tuesday paying Ruskin a visit at his plush Washington offices. It seems that a plea deal is already in the works.

All indications are that Rove and Scooter Libby face real legal jeopardy. But they’re also facing a trial by media, which, for seasoned political hacks of their ilk, is a penalty far worse than incarceration. Being photographed in handcuffs is political cyanide for any one entertaining a future in politics. For veterans such as Rove and Libby these images may become their tombstones.

PS: Democratis adds that it's still possible Fitzgerald will conclude that there was no violation of the law; everything that has been reported about coming indictments is built upon either anonymous sources or speculation. “For all we know . . . Scooter Libby, Karl Rove and Dick Cheney could be carried down the courthouse steps on the shoulders of the grand jurors.” We'll know soon enough. . .


Anonymous said...

Is there a federal law against war-mongering?

If not, there should be.

bekaz said...

I think , yes