Ted Wells, Center Of the Defense

An artist's sketch of Ted Wells at work during the Scooter Libby trial.
An artist's sketch of Ted Wells at work during the Scooter Libby trial. (By Dana Verkouteren -- Associated Press)
By Linton Weeks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 21, 2007

For most of the month-long trial, Ted Wells, Scooter Libby's high-priced attorney, had been all smiles. He laughed. He shared light moments with the judge, the jury and with his opponent, special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald. At one point Wells and Fitzgerald were so palsy-walsy, Judge Reggie B. Walton chastised them.

Yesterday, in his closing argument, he struck a much different note. Speaking to the jury, Wells said Libby "has been in my protection for the past month."

Now, he told them, he was turning Libby over to them.

Then, as he asked the jury to presume Libby's innocence and "give him back to me," Wells began to cry. He sat down at the defense table and wiped his eyes.

It was a strange moment in a strange case.

Before beginning his argument yesterday morning, he paced in front of the empty jury box. He stood in a corner --tall, athletic, mustachioed -- like a fighter imaging the bout to come. Under the outwardly gentle guise you could see an inner toughness of someone who will use any combination of punches to win big.

Family and friends came to watch him work. At one point he stopped to check on his 83-year-old mother, Phyllis, who sat in a wheelchair in the courtroom aisle.

There were moments when he seemed out of sync, checking on how much time he had left, hurrying through slides in his PowerPoint presentation.

At other times, he was impressive, trying to convince the jury that the prosecution was attempting to ruin Libby based on a few conversations with reporters. In charcoal suit, white shirt and red tie, he marched through pertinent evidence, occasionally lapsing into shtick.

He said he didn't agree with the way the prosecution portrayed his opening argument. "Maybe I was drunk or something," he said, working the jury like a Jay Leno audience.

"Ted has a wonderful demeanor," says Stanley M. Brand, a Washington litigator who has worked with Wells. "He's a master tactician. He's a bulldog, but in a gentle way."

Brand considers Wells -- a native Washingtonian who is a partner in the New York-based firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison -- to be "one of the five best trial lawyers in the country."

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