In what has to be a good development for the defendants in the case against two former AIPAC staffers, the government has substantially lost its appeals in the U.S Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. of the pre-trial rulings of the trial judge,Judge Ellis.
In April, the government filed three appeals against pretrial rulings by Judge T.S. Ellis of the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va. Such pretrial or "interlocutory" appeals are rare.
One appeal was against Ellis' decision in March this year over which secret evidence may be declassified for use in the trial; another was against his November 2007 decision rejecting as unconstitutional the prosecution's request for a closed trial; and another was against his August 2006 decision that rejected a defense motion to dismiss the entire case on First Amendment grounds.
The latter decision ostensibly favored the government; however, while Ellis upheld the constitutionality of the charges, he narrowed their scope, saying the government must prove that the defendants harmed the United States, and not merely benefited Israel.
Rosen and Weissman filed a "cross-appeal" saying that the government had the right only to appeal the scope of declassified evidence in the case; Ellis' other decisions must stand, they said.
On Friday, the 4th Circuit agreed.
The trial has been postponed several times pending resolution of these issues. This ruling substantially limits the government's evidentiary options.The court will hear the appeal od the scope of the declassified evidence in July. The trial will take place sometime after that issue is resolved.