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Safavian Trial: Guilty Verdict Was Expected, But Announcement a Surprise

From the pad and pen in my hand (not to mention my lack of a shower, or even appropriate dress), I think it was obvious to Safavian I was a reporter. And looking in his eyes, it was clear to me that he had no love for my kind -- if, indeed, he had any feelings about us at all in that moment.

"Any comments?" I asked.

He just looked at me. His entourage got on the elevator. His wife asked him if she could carry his briefcase; he very quietly declined her offer. The doors closed, and we rode to the first floor in silence.

* * * *

On the steps of the E. Barrett Prettyman courthouse, Van Gelder was much more expansive than her client. Speaking before a bundle of mics, a couple dozen reporters and perhaps a half-dozen television cameras, she spoke and answered questions for several minutes. Mr. Safavian, she said, was "very upset" by the verdict, and he will appeal the decision. At the moment, he's released on his own recognizance. The jury instructions were too complicated, in her view ("It took them four hours to read the instructions!"). Noting the sunny day, she made a joke about wishing she'd brought sunscreen.

Was it a mistake for Safavian to testify? "It's never a mistake to call your client," Van Gelder said. "I think that's why it took so long" for the jury to reach its verdict.

"I've always been perplexed why the Justice Department took out the howitzers and aimed them at Mr. Safavian," she said at one point, mustering up some passion when speaking about her client. "Nobody deserves to have their life vivisected," she said in another such moment.

Van Gelder confirmed that Safavian's legal fees were "a phenomenal" amount of money, but that he was receiving minimal assistance from others. "I think he's accepted some offers to help" from "a few good friends," she said, but they were goodwill gestures, not "substantial" contributions.

"He's not a man who has friends in high places," she said of Safavian, a former White House official.

As the questions wore on, she cracked a joke at NPR reporter Peter Overby's expense -- "he's from NPR, he gets paid by the hour." Upon leaving the microphones, she wished a reporter good luck on behalf of his team, the Red Sox. Perhaps because, like Van Gelder, they appear to take losing in stride. Unlike her client.