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Yes, everyone in D.C. in politics, journalism and law is on edge today. Rumors are flying — everyone is wondering whether there will be indictments in the "CIA leak" (search) case. Friday ends this grand jury's (search) service and typically grand juries vote on Wednesdays, but nothing is certain. The grand jury could vote today, tomorrow or Friday. The grand jury service could also be extended beyond Friday, but I doubt that will occur. I think it is safe to say we will know by Friday at 5 p.m. if there will be an indictment and we could know as early as Wednesday (today.)
I have heard all sorts of rumors — including that there will be indictments today, some say Friday. But bottom line is: no one knows and no one should know. Grand juries are supposed to be secret. If grand jurors are talking, they are violating the law. If the lawyers in the special prosecutor's office or other staff are talking, they are breaking the law. Witnesses before the grand jury are free to talk, but they don't know if they will be indicted unless they have gotten a "target" letter, which is a pretty good clue (but not a certainty.) If there is an indictment, I would expect that the lawyers for the defendants would get a courtesy call from the special prosecutor so that the lawyers don't learn about it when we — the media — camp out on their clients' doorsteps. (By the way, you can sometimes tell by little things like courtesy calls if the prosecutor is really a straight arrow — or whether there is a grudge attached to the indictment, whether the indictment be fair or not.)
What can happen in Washington is that if enough people say something enough times, it becomes a phony fact. We are now at that feverish pitch where phony facts are flying. If you live here in D.C., and if you get caught up in the rumors that have been flying, you would probably believe that indictments are certain. They may be... but, I just don't know and think we all need to be careful and wait for the real facts.
If there is an indictment, the first court appearance after indictment is the arraignment — the time when the accused is formally informed of the charges. This is usually within about two weeks of the indictment. The case will be (or should be) randomly assigned to a federal judge here in U.S. District Court. There are many judges on this bench and each was appointed by a president. I have not looked recently at the roster of federal judges here in Washington, D.C., but I would be surprised if we have one dating back to President Nixon. We certainly have judges appointed by President Carter (I am not sure if President Ford in his short time as president had any appointments to our U.S. District Court.) Of course we have many Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton and probably Bush 43 appointed judges. If there is an indictment, be prepared for criticism of the judge no matter who it is.... many will say he or she is politically motivated since appointed by a Democratic or Republican judge. This could be very unfair to the judge.
The arraignment should last less than 10 minutes (some are less than five!) At the arraignment the defendant enters a plea of not guilty, makes a demand for a jury trial and sometimes a speedy trial. The decision whether to ask for a speedy trial or waive the provision is a tactical one for the accused and his/her lawyer. A status hearing will be set — usually weeks later — when all the parties meet again with the judge and talk scheduling of motions and discuss any problems (e.g. fights over discovery.) If a trial date was not set at the arraignment, the date will be set at the status hearing.
There are no cameras in the federal courthouse so you won't see this trial on TV, if there is an indictment. You will have to rely on us — which I don't think ideal since I would prefer you see this trial with your own eyes if there is an indictment. Remember, at this point, no one knows or should know if there will be an indictment and instead we are listening to rumors. Rumors are dangerous and can be wrong... dead wrong.
Here are some randomly chosen e-mails:
E-mail No. 1 — This e-mail responds to one posted on Tuesday:
OK, now I'm mad. For that woman who e-mailed you saying it was New Orleans "poor leadership and planning"... a few facts. Katrina was a Cat 4; Wilma was a Cat 2. New Orleans lies below sea level; Florida does not. The number of people who evacuated greater New Orleans area was greater than 500,000 (not a typo!) The number of roads that exit New Orleans = four. How many of those were bridges? Three. What percent of the population was told to evacuate? 100%. What percent did evacuate? 90%. Of those left behind, how many stayed because they WANTED TO STAY? 90%. The fact is, the government pre-positioned its supplies and services in such a way that they were unable to enter the city after the storm. ALL THE BRIDGES were initially unusable. No one counted on cell phones not working; not because the power was out... but because the TOWERS were all down. FEMA had one person in New Orleans. The mayor couldn't call the governor, and The Weather Channel told the governor that the storm had missed us. And Greta, I'll send you the newspaper article from two years ago showing that a FEMA study predicted every single thing that happened during Katrina well in advance. They knew. The only thing they didn't know, was that it did not take a direct hit to destroy our levees. How do you plan for that? How do you get people out who would rather stay in their homes and die here? How?
Kenner, LA... and we're fine, thanks for asking
E-mail No. 2 — this e-mail responds to one posted yesterday:
Please inform "A Fox News Watcher From Georgia" about something called Foul Weather Gear! Foul Weather Gear is, was and always has been Bright Yellow for a reason — so the wearer in fog, rain, wind and inclement weather — will actually show up in someone's visual... to stick out even. Wearing yellow gear shows you have experience — I have the whole outfit — jacket, pants, boots and wear it usually on a boat in bad weather or in a bad storm — to keep dry — it is common sense and not fashion first — when you are oceanfront with a Cat 3 hurricane coming at you! I am sure you stayed toasty and dry in your foul weather gear - do not change to a fashionable color for foul weather - safety comes first.
E-mail No. 3
I am a big fan, but I am a Mississippian and feel like we are getting the shaft in this coverage. This whole state was devastated. We are just now getting power back in the some northern and central counties in our state. Who knows how long it will take to get to the coast. I feel for everyone. New Orleans was flooded. Mississippi has been literally blown off the map in some places. Keep it fair. Mississippi is housing lots of New Orleans people and due to the great hospitality state stepping up to the plate and helping their neighbor — we may just acquire lots of new residents. Mississippi is used to being at the end of the list, but this time we need just as much attention as the others. We are hurting too! Keep your chin up Mississippi — we'll get through it together.
E-mail No. 4
I just had to write when I heard that Paulus van der Sloot (search) was petitioning the court to clear his name so that the government of Aruba could rehire him. I am outraged and my heart breaks for Natalees' family.
I truly believe that Van der Sloot (like father like son) is up to his eyeballs in aiding his son to cover up this horrific crime and if these are the type of officials running Aruba, I would hope that all Americans would back a call to boycott Aruba, if Beth calls for us to do so. This could be anybody's child and we sure would not want to be in Beth's shoes, this has been a debacle from the start and it appears to be of no consequence to any of the people involved in this tragedy. My heart continues to break for this family.
Thanks for your time,
E-mail No. 5 — the next two e-mails are about the accused killer of Pamela Vitale (search) and why he was allegedly wearing gloves:
The boy could have been warring the gloves, because he was going to break into the house, and didn't want to leave fingerprints.
E-mail No. 6
I don't think that one can read too much into the wearing of gloves in the Pamela Vitale murder. Gloves are typically worn by members of the "Goth movement." So this may simply be his regular attire.
E-mail No. 7
I almost laughed out loud when I read the 1st e-mail in your blog yesterday. The person who wrote that is either not very clever or has definitely not been outside in adverse weather conditions yet, because then he/she would have known that the last thing you think of is if you look pretty enough or not! The main problem you had was to stay dry and I'm sure a nice-looking and shorter(!) jacket is not going to do it if you are in the middle of a hurricane. Don't you worry about people who make ridiculous suggestions like that — as long as you do your job, the rest of us are happy.
Cape Town, South Africa
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