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Libby jury asks -- and retracts -- a question

March 01, 2007|Richard B. Schmitt | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The jury weighing the perjury case against I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby began a second week of deliberations Wednesday after sending a note to the judge raising a question about one of the charges against the former vice presidential aide.

The note, sent to U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton on Tuesday night, was the first substantive communication from the jurors since they began deliberations last week, and it fueled speculation that they were making progress.

The question focused on the third of five counts Libby is facing stemming from allegations that he lied to investigators to cover up his involvement in the leaking of a CIA operative's identity in the summer of 2003.

Libby is accused of misleading the FBI and a grand jury about conversations he had with two reporters -- former Time magazine correspondent Matthew Cooper and Tim Russert of NBC News -- before the identity of operative Valerie Plame was publicly exposed.

Her exposure came eight days after her husband, former envoy Joseph C. Wilson IV, had a column published in the New York Times that accused the Bush administration of misleading the public about the Iraq war.

The jurors' question related to a version Libby has offered of his conversation with Cooper. Libby testified that he spoke with Cooper about Wilson's wife working for the agency, but that it was a rumor received from other reporters, and that he did not know whether it was true.

Cooper has contradicted that account, testifying that Libby confirmed information he had about Plame to him without reservation.

In its note, the jury questioned the standard for finding Libby guilty of the charge of making a false statement to investigators.

Walton responded with a note of his own requesting clarification.

In an enigmatic reply, the jury subsequently told the judge that it had resolved the issue. "After further discussion we are clear on what we need to do. No further clarification needed. Thank you. We apologize," the jury said.

Deliberations are set to resume this morning.

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rick.schmitt@latimes.com

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