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Ex-Starr Aide Faces Contempt Trial

Spc. Mark W. Melcher, 34, of Pittsburgh, Pa., died in Al Taqaddum, Iraq on April 15, 2006, when his M1A1 Abrams tank came under enemy small-arms fire during combat operations.
AP
The spokesman for Kenneth Starr during the Monica Lewinsky investigation will be tried for criminal contempt next week by the chief federal district judge in Washington, D.C., reports CBS News White House Correspondent Bill Plante.

Charles Bakaly is being prosecuted by the government before U.S. District Judge Norma Holloway Johnson. A trial has been scheduled for July 13, according to court documents.

President Clinon's attorneys accused Starr's office and Bakaly of illegal leaks to the news media, but the Justice Department decided last year not to indict him.

His trial next week will focus instead on the truthfulness of statements he made in connection with an investigation into leaks of grand jury material during the Lewinsky investigation.

The judge, who presided over most of the legal cases during the Lewinsky impeachment drama, also solicited the views of President Clinton's lawyers and Starr's successor, Robert Ray, as to whether sealed documents in the case should be made public at trial.

Bakaly was unavailable for comment, his wife said Thursday. His attorneys, Gary Coleman and Michelle Roberts, were also unavailable, their offices said.

The trial is the latest twist in a case spurred by Mr. Clinton's lawyers.

During the height of the impeachment investigation, the president's attorneys, David Kendall and Nicole Seligman, launched a legal assault accusing Starr and his staff of illegally leaking to the news media information covered by federal grand jury secrecy rules about the Lewinsky case.

Starr's office denied any illegal leaks, but his staff was forced to undergo an intense investigation directed by the court.

In the midst of that investigation, Bakaly abruptly resigned as Starr's spokesman after his former boss referred him to the Justice Department in connection with a press leak two months earlier.

The New York Times, citing sources, reported July 31, 1999 that Starr had concluded the president could legally be indicted while still in office.

Bakaly went on national television the day after the article appeared and said the "information did not come from our office. ... We did not leak this information. ... We do not leak grand jury information."

Starr made the referral to the Justice Department after his office conducted its own inquiry and concluded Bakaly may have had some involvement in the leak, officials said.

Johnson ultimately concluded there was evidence that Starr's office may have been behind as many as two dozen improper leaks. Starr appealed, and won a key ruling from an appeals court. Among other things, the court ruled that the information in the Times articles was not covered by grand jury secrecy and thus was not an improper leaks.

Bakaly, however, was forced to face the criminal contempt charge.

Bakaly is the second major figure in the impeachment drama to face contempt charges.

Mr Clinton was accused of civil contempt by a federal judge for false statements in the Paula Jones case and ordered to pay a fine.