In the government’s opening statement, head prosecutor James Trump told jurors that Sterling had committed crimes of betrayal due to his “anger, bitterness, selfishness”—a theme and theory of the case that the Obama Justice Department was to reprise often with its mosaic of CIA testimony and its boffo PowerPoint closing argument: claiming that Sterling became vengeful against the agency when he failed to win his legal complaint against it for racial discrimination. The prosecution was gratified two weeks later when the nearly all-white jury, which included no African-Americans, voted guilty on all counts.
Few news reports about the verdict provided any context, but that was true of the entire trial’s overall sparse coverage. During the seven days of proceedings, I rarely saw more than five other journalists in the courtroom. But the trial for United States of America v. Jeffrey Alexander Sterling was extraordinary, for reasons far beyond the fact that it was the first time a jury considered Espionage Act charges that a CIA employee had leaked classified information to news media.