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Information actually presented to the grand jury is core Fed. R. Crim. P. 6(e) material that is afforded the broadest protection from disclosure. Prosecutors' statements about their investigations, however, implicate the rule only when they directly reveal grand jury matters.
During President Clinton's impeachment trial, the New York Times published an article captioned "Starr is Weighing Whether to Indict Sitting President." The White House sought a show cause order why the Office of Independent Counsel (OIC) should not be held in contempt for disclosing grand jury material in violation of Fed. R. Crim. P. 6(e), pointing to several excerpts from the article as evidence of OIC's violations of the secrecy rule. OIC noted the article contained confidential internal OIC information, but maintained the information was not protected by Rule 6(e). The district court disagreed, concluding the article revealed grand jury material and constituted a prima facie violation of Rule 6(e).
Did the disclosures made in the article in question constitute a prima facie violation of Fed. R. Crim. P. 6(e)?
The Court held that the disclosures made in the New York Times article did not constitute a prima facie violation of Rule 6(e). According to the Court, a prima facie violation based on a news report was established by showing that the report disclosed matters occurring before the grand jury and indicated that sources of the information included government attorneys. Because the OIC has withdrawn its argument that none of its attorneys was the source of the disclosures in the New York Times article at issue, the only remaining issue was whether the disclosures qualified as matters occurring before the grand jury. In this case, the Court concluded that the public disclosures of internal deliberations of OIC prosecutors that did not directly reveal grand jury proceedings did not violate Rule 6(e) as they did not "occur before the grand jury." According to the Court, the disclosure that a group of OIC prosecutors "believe" that an indictment should be brought at the end of the impeachment proceedings did not on its face, or in the context of the article as a whole, violate Rule 6(e). Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded with instructions to dismiss the Rule 6(e) contempt proceedings against OIC.