Miller’s Lawyer Won’t Rule Out Criminal Contempt Charges

By: E&P Staff

On Monday evening, the same day The New York Times published a ringing editorial backing its jailed reporter Judith Miller, her attorney, Floyd Abrams, appeared on Lou Dobbs’ CNN show to offer further support. Abrams acknowledged, however, that the special prosecutor might bring further charges against her, possibly involving criminal contempt, which could keep her incarcerated beyond her expected October release on civil contempt charges.

He said that it would be “wishful thinking” to deny that this was a possibility.

Abrams also fired back at a leading Miller critic, columnist/blogger Arianna Huffington, calling her charges that Miller may be covering up her own active involvement in the Plame scandal “preposterous.” He declared that what Huffington “is concerned about, what she dislikes Judy Miller for, is not this, but earlier reporting she did on weapons of mass destruction. And because of that reporting, she refuses to give her the credit for acting out of the principle that animates her.”

At Huffington Post, her Web site, Huffington hit back today, writing that, “even though Abrams sounded like the defense lawyer during closing arguments at some future trial, he wasn’t peddling this pap to a judge. He was selling it to a much more receptive crowd — the mindless media that are all too willing to gobble up his Judy-as-hero rhetoric. Will the preemptive PR work and keep Judy from being charged with criminal contempt? Stay tuned….”

Here is a transcript of the Abrams segment on CNN:

DOBBS: Let’s begin with 40 days in jail. How much longer is this going to go on? And what purpose does it serve?

ABRAMS: Well, the order of confinement by the judge was that she would stay in jail until she revealed her confidential sources, or until the grand jury expired, which is right now scheduled for October 28th. So it would be until then, unless there was — there were additional legal steps taken against her. But if things go as they’re going right now, I’d say the end of October.

DOBBS: The issue of criminal proceedings has been raised here…

ABRAMS: Yes.

DOBBS: Would Judge Hogan, would Special Counsel Fitzgerald, go so far, in your judgment?

ABRAMS: I have to say I don’t think so. But maybe this is wishful thinking. I think they both recognize that she is doing what she not only believes is the right thing to do, but what journalists in general are trained to do, taught to do, and honored for doing.

DOBBS: There is an extraordinary set of currents surrounding Judith Miller, and this instance, in which the left is obviously extraordinarily agitated with her, and the principled stand that she’s taken, and the right is defensive because of the leak that purportedly put at risk a covert agent. How do you react to it?

ABRAMS: Well, I’m just unhappy that so many people can’t distinguish politics from principle. Judy Miller is acting out of principle. She would be acting the same way if her source were from the left or the right, Democrat, Republican, hawk or dove. She made promises of confidentiality. She thinks it’s a matter of honor and adherence to First Amendment principles that she has to keep her word.

Now, people can argue about that, but what’s disturbing to me is that, as you rightly say, from the left and the right, you hear a torrent of criticism, a minority criticism to be sure…

DOBBS: Right.

ABRAMS: … but criticism of her by people who can’t abide the idea that she’s doing this out of principle. Which is the only reason she’s doing it.

DOBBS: Arianna Huffington sent out a newsletter, e-mail newsletter, suggesting that Judith Miller was simply not standing on principle, but rather doing so out of self-interest and protecting herself, rather than her confidential sources. How do you respond to that kind of attack?

ABRAMS: Well, let me say first, with Judy Miller in jail, there are limits to what I can say about that. I don’t want to add to her legal risks. But I can say that’s preposterous. It’s not so. And it illustrates what I was talking about earlier. What Arianna Huffington is concerned about, what she dislikes Judy Miller for is not this, but earlier reporting she did on weapons of mass destruction. And because of that reporting, she refuses to give her the credit for acting out of the principle that animates her.

DOBBS: And there is also — and some viewers of this broadcast have said — how can Judith Miller possibly think she stands above the Constitution and the law? We are all beneath the law, serve at the law. We are protected by the law itself. And how can you possibly support her?

How do you respond to that?

ABRAMS: Well, I’d say this. She doesn’t stand above the law. She knows she doesn’t stand above the law. She’s in prison. She didn’t run away. She’s serving her time in prison, as a way of showing, illustrating that she’s not above the law. And the notion that this is some sort of lawless act on her part, as if no one has ever received what the lawyers call a privilege, a right not to reveal sources, it just isn’t so. I don’t have to reveal sources, because I’m a lawyer. I don’t have to reveal her sources, because I’m a lawyer. Priests don’t have to reveal sources. Lots of people don’t. Judy believes that when she made a promise, she committed herself, her honor and her profession, and so she really doesn’t have any choice but to keep her word.

DOBBS: To keep her word, and she should be honored for doing so, because I’ll just speak for myself here simply, I think the prosecutor in this case, the judge in this case is — they are acting injuriously to the First Amendment, and to the society that they say they’re protecting. I understand perhaps their frustrations, but this is a remarkable infringement of our Bill of Rights.

ABRAMS: You know, they’re doing what they think they have a right to do. And Judy is doing what she knows she has to do.

DOBBS: And what I always say when people say, well, Judith Miller thinks she’s above the law here, I always say, well, she is certainly serving her principles, because she’s willing to pay the price of being in prison, which is required by the law.

ABRAMS: And not many people do it.

DOBBS: Not many. But thank goodness we have at least one here.

ABRAMS: Yes.

DOBBS: Thank you, Floyd.

ABRAMS: Thanks. And thanks for your support.

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