Trial by 20/20

The SE Texas Record Dec. 15, 2007, 5:34am

Everybody's talking about Jamie Leigh Jones this week. And it isn't because she's just made news.

To the contrary, the news is making Jamie Leigh Jones, which seems to be the intention.

Jones is the Houston woman who has gone very public with charges she was drugged and brutally gang raped by co-workers while working as secretary for a contractor in Iraq's Green Zone. It was reported this week that she's seeking justice-- from America and her ex-employer.

And Halliburton.

That last one-- otherwise known as the oil and gas services giant formerly run by Vice President Dick Cheney-- has made Jones' case plain media magnetic.

Anti-Administration Democrats think Halliburton to be uber-nefarious. The media loves charges that are scurrilous. Now the case of Jamie Leigh Jones has both, and everyone that's anyone is on the beat.

She didn't actually work for Halliburton in Iraq. But no matter.

ABC News started the swarm Dec. 10, posting a story detailing Jones' side of the story on its Web site. The CEO of her actual employer, the less-despised Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), defended the company in an internal e-mail. That leaked. It led to more stories, and drove the blogosphere up-in-arms.

Up next: U.S. Rep Ted Poe (R-Houston) has scheduled hearings on her case before the House Judiciary Committee; Jones will be the star witness. And 20/20-- ABC's long-running Friday evening news magazine with a penchant for the dramatic-- says her story is scheduled to run next month, in prime time. This drama is just getting started.

No doubt, Jones's lawyer L. Todd Kelly is thrilled with all the publicity. Once a low-profile Houston medical malpractice attorney, he has emerged as a media-made pseudo-celebrity.

Kelly talked with ABC News himself, blaming Halliburton for trying to "cover up" the crime and slamming KBR's CEO for "attacking the victim."

"It is the oldest trick in the book," he said.

Guilt-by-association may be older.

Kelly's handiwork has been effective in ginning up public support and awareness for his client. Whether it has been helpful in her quest for recourse in a serious case involving serious charges, however, is another story.

This is our justice system, after all. Not American Idol.

For integrity's sake, it's sad that some lawyers refuse to recognize the difference.

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