Scooter Libby gets 30 months in Plame case

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Today, Tuesday, United States District Judge Reggie B. Walton, presiding at the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse in Washington, D.C., sentenced I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby to 30 months in prison. He also fined Libby US$250,000.

Judge Walton chose not to delay the sentencing of Libby until an appeal sought by the defendant has a chance to be heard. Libby was convicted in March of perjury, obstruction of justice, and making false statements to federal investigators after he was found guilty by a jury of lying in the Plame affair investigation in which Valerie Plame's identity as a CIA operative was leaked to the press. The Libby defense team is preparing an appeal to that conviction that may be ready by December this year.

Both defendant Libby and U.S. prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald left the court with no comments to reporters. Libby was not remanded to prison immediately. Judge Walton indicated that the court would receive briefs from both plaintiffs and defendant before ruling on when jail time would commence.

Libby's defense team submitted a sentencing memo to Judge Walton on Thursday last week. The memo asked for leniency and a "downward departure" in the court's ruling that could impose jail time on Libby. The memo urged the court to consider "the more than 160 heartfelt letters" submitted on Libby's behalf. It also urged the court to consider Libby's extraordinary commitment to public service. "The fundamental command that the sentence be sufficient, but not greater than necessary to serve the purposes of punishment, makes clear that a sentence of probation is warranted here," according to the memo.

The Probation Office calculated the applicable [sentencing] Guidelines at 15 - 21 months and identified several grounds for downward departure from that range.

—Lawyers for Libby's defense

Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald called Libby unrepentant and unremorseful at the trial's sentencing hearing on May 25. Fitzgerald asked the federal judge to sentence Libby to 30 - 37 months in jail.

Norman Pearlstine, former editor in chief of TIME magazine, wrote in the week before the sentencing that: "Fitzgerald convinced the jury that Libby lied when he denied telling Cooper and Miller about Plame and when he said he had first learned of Plame's identity from Russert, instead of from Cheney." Pearlstine referred to journalists Matt Cooper, Judith Miller, and Tim Russert. Dick Cheney is the vice-president of the United States. Libby resigned as the vice-president's chief of staff after he was indicted in the ensuing investigation over the exposure of a CIA operative's identity.

Earlier there was speculation that President Bush might pardon Libby. Deputy White House Press Secretary Dana Perino told the press aboard Air Force One on the way to the G8 summit in Rostock, Germany, that Bush "...does feel terrible for them [Libby and his family], he thinks they're going through a lot right now, they've been through a lot. But given the fact that the judge has set up a process for appeal and given the way that the President has handled this for the past year or so, he's not going to intervene."