Ex-Starr Deputy Strikes Back
Jul. 11, 2000
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Charles Bakaly, the former Kenneth Starr lieutenant charged with misleading a judge about a press leak, struck back Monday in court filings that suggested independent counsel lawyers were to blame for the problem.
Prosecutors countered the former Starr spokesman withheld information from Starr's office and only later ``changed some of the details of his story'' when interviewed by FBI agents.
``As a result of Bakaly's false and misleading statements and representations ... proceedings in this court ... were delayed and unnecessary work and costs were incurred,'' prosecutors wrote in arguing why Bakaly should stand trial for criminal contempt.
Both sides staked out their strategies in final court briefs before Bakaly begins trial Thursday on a charge alleging he obstructed justice by making false representations in court documents about a news leak near the end of the Monica Lewinsky case.
Prosecutors said they would call two former lawyers for Starr's office and three FBI agents as witnesses to show Bakaly initially misled the special prosecutor's office. Bakaly focused his defense on lawyers in Starr's office who filed the court statements at issue.
Bakaly alleged in his filing that he detailed his role in a disputed January 1999 news story to lawyers for Starr's office, but the lawyers omitted information from his account before filing a statement with a federal judge on his behalf.
He also argued he shouldn't be prosecuted because an appeals court has concluded that none of the information in the news story was protected by grand jury secrecy rules.
Bakaly is accused of making three false statements in that sworn declaration and causing the independent counsel office to make a fourth in its own filing concerning the news leak.
Bakaly's lawyers argued he doesn't believe any of the four statements were false, but if read that way by the court ``Mr. Bakaly is not responsible for and did not cause that falseness.''
He alleged that in one instance Starr's lawyers declined to change language in the sworn statement to make it more detailed and accurate _ as Bakaly requested _ because the lawyers wanted to keep information from President Clinton's attorney.
In another instance, he said lawyers told him they had left out information from his sworn statement because they wanted ``to provide the minimum amount of information while fully complying with what was required.''
Independent Counsel Robert Ray, who succeeded Starr, had not seen Bakaly's filing late Monday and declined comment, his office said.
But the Justice Department said it intends to show the former Starr adviser misled the court when he signed a sworn statement about the news leak suggesting that he had ``refused to confirm or comment'' on what Starr's office ``was thinking or doing.''
In fact, the government said, Bakaly later told the FBI he may have ``unwittingly'' and ``inadvertently'' confirmed information to the reporter and ``was in fact'' one of the unnamed associates quoted at times in the story.
Meanwhile, Bakaly found support Monday from an unlikely source _ the chief Democratic lawyer on the House Judiciary Committee who had been a harsh critic of Starr's probe.
Julian Epstein said the case against Bakaly was ``a terrible prosecution'' and a ``semantical game of gotcha'' because courts have determined the story Bakaly was accused of leaking was not covered by grand jury secrecy rules.
``There is no real underlying offense here,'' Epstein said. ``This again is example of prosecutors and the legal system going too far.''
At issue is a Jan. 31, 1999 story published by The New York Times that reported _ in the midst of Clinton's impeachment trial _ that Starr's office had concluded that a sitting president could be indicted in criminal court.
The story become the subject of a leaks investigation, and the chief federal judge in Washington concluded the story divulged material covered by grand jury secrecy rules. But the judge was overruled by an appeals court.
Nonetheless, Bakaly was ordered to stand trial for criminal contempt. The leaks case was prompted by a complaint from David Kendall, the president's personal lawyer.
Bakaly acknowledged in the court filing Monday he talked with the reporter several times before the story, but said he attempted to ``steer'' the reporter away from writing the story.
Bakaly also acknowledged faxing to the reporter portions of an internal independent counsel office document that laid out Watergate-era arguments about indicting a president.
Bakaly said he informed Starr's lawyers during the internal review that he had faxed an internal agency document, but the lawyers wrote a statement on his behalf suggesting it was a generic compilation.
Bakaly contends he asked Starr's lawyers to change the statement to reflect it was an internal document, but was turned down. He alleged one lawyer told him that he ``did not want Mr. Kendall to know that fact and that if necessary he would advise the court of the fact at a later time.''