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Crime Writer Has Done Her Time

Vanessa Leggett fights back tears during an interview Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2001, at the federal detention center in Houston. Leggett was found in contempt of court by a federal judge in Houston on July 20 and ordered jailed without bond for refusing to turn over her records of interviews with Roger Angleton, a man charged with the shooting death of his 46-year-old sister-in-law
AP
A novice crime writer jailed for more than five months for refusing to give federal prosecutors her research about a murder case left her cell behind Friday.

"I'm just very grateful to be free," a tearful Vanessa Leggett said as she emerged from a federal detention center. "Downtown Houston never looked so good. I feel good — I was able to maintain my journalistic integrity so far."

Leggett, 33, was released because the federal grand jury that demanded she turn over her research on a society murder was to end its term Friday, said her attorney, Mike DeGeurin.

"She enjoys her freedom as much as anybody. The idea that she's going to be free again is what's exciting to her. She's well aware the effort is not over," DeGeurin said.

Leggett, standing between DeGeurin and her husband, Doak, said she looked forward to returning to work. She said she planned to continue working on her book and incorporate her jail experience in it.

Her husband, who spent Thursday cleaning house in anticipation of her homecoming, said he was "very relieved she's coming home."

Kesha Handy, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office, said she could not comment on whether the government planned to convene another grand jury in the case or again ask Leggett for her notes.

DeGeurin said he would continue Leggett's appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in hopes of protecting her from being jailed again.

"The government could always bring another subpoena to a new grand jury and start the process again," he said.

Leggett was jailed on contempt charges July 20 after refusing to hand over all her research, including original notes and copies of all notes.

Federal agents were investigating Robert Angleton, a millionaire Houston bookmaker whose wife, Doris, was shot to death in April 1997. Leggett, a part-time college instructor, interviewed many people involved in the investigation for a book she was writing.

Leggett refused to be an informant in the case for the government and declined to answer questions about confidential sources before the grand jury.

Angleton was acquitted in 1998 in state court on charges of hiring his brother, Roger, to kill his wife. Roger Angleton killed himself in jail 10 months after the slaying, leaving behind a note exonerating his brother. Leggett interviewed him before the suicide.

Federal prosecutors contend Leggett is not a journalist and does not fall under the First Amendment's protection of the press. Leggett has not published a book or news articles.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had upheld her incarceration, noting that neither she nor any other journalist has a qualified privilege protecting confidential sources. The high court received the appeal this week and will announce later if it will review the case.

Leggett's incarceration exceeded the previous longest U.S. jail stint for a journalist. A Los Angeles Herald-Examiner reporter spent 46 days behind bars for refusing to disclose sourc material related to the Charles Manson trial in 1972, according to The Reporters' Committee for Freedom of the Press.

By JUAN A. LOZANO
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