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Jailed Texas Crime Writer Is Released

January 05, 2002|From Associated Press

HOUSTON — Weeping with joy, an aspiring author was released from jail Friday after spending more than five months behind bars for refusing to hand over notes about a society murder.

"I'm just very grateful to be free," Vanessa Leggett said with her husband, Doak, at her side. "Downtown Houston never looked so good. I feel good--I was able to maintain my journalistic integrity so far."

Leggett, 33, was freed after 168 days in jail because the federal grand jury that demanded her research ended its term Friday, said her attorney, Mike DeGeurin.

However, federal prosecutors have indicated they will again ask Leggett for her research. Another grand jury could be convened as early as next week and she could be subpoenaed to appear.

Leggett said she would be more than willing to go back to jail.

"If that's what it takes, that's what it takes," she said. "This is not so much about me; it's about the public's right to a free and independent press."

Kesha Handy, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office, declined to comment.

Leggett is working on a book about the 1997 murder of Doris Angleton in Houston. Authorities suspect her husband, Robert Angleton, hired his brother to kill his wife. Robert Angleton was acquitted in 1998 but federal agents are now investigating him. Roger Angleton killed himself in jail, leaving a note exonerating his brother. Leggett had interviewed him.

Leggett was jailed on contempt charges July 20 after refusing to answer the grand jury's questions about confidential sources and not turning over copies of her notes.

Federal prosecutors contend Leggett is not a journalist and does not fall under the 1st Amendment's protection of the press. Leggett, who has taught English and criminal justice at the University of Houston, has never published a book or news article.

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