Former White House Aide Lewis Libby Gets Jail, Fine
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
We do not know if Lewis Libby will be allowed to remain free on bail until his appeal, but we do know that a judge has sentenced the former White House aide to two and a half years in prison. That's his sentence for lying to the FBI and a grand jury during a CIA leak investigation.
Here's NPR's legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg.
NINA TOTENBERG: President Bush said through a spokesman that he does not intend to intervene now in the case, leaving the question of a possible pardon dangling in the air. At yesterday's sentencing hearing, Judge Reggie Walton said he does not see any reason why Libby should not begin serving his prison term right away. But the judge said he would hear arguments on the question next week.
Libby's friends are hoping he can remain free on bail until later in the Bush term when the president might be more likely to issue a pardon. Yesterday's hearing was a sad and desultory coda to a trial in which Libby was convicted of four counts of perjury and obstruction of justice.
Once chief of staff to Vice President Cheney, Libby was perhaps paler yesterday than at trial. His wife - fighting back tears - looked completely exhausted. The packet of 198 letters submitted to the judge on Libby's behalf included statements from former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, General Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joints of Chiefs of Staff, outgoing World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, to name just a few. But there were no letters from President Bush or Vice President Cheney.
The defense asked Libby be given no jail time. Defense lawyer Ted Wells said Libby's case was exceptional, not only because of the defendant's long record of public service, but because Libby had been subjected to what Wells called overwhelmingly negative press coverage. As a result, said the defense lawyer, Libby has been inundated with hate mail. The social stigma of being so publicly humiliated should factor into his sentence to some extent, Wells argued.
Libby has fallen from public grace, he said. It's a tragic fall - a tragic fall.
But Judge Reggie Walton favored the recommendation of Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, and sentenced Libby to 30 months in prison.
Contrary to what people have said in attacking the prosecution in this case, said Judge Walton, the evidence of the defendant's guilt was overwhelming. Walton said he had watched the case unfold with sadness, concluding that Libby's claim to have testified truthfully was a lie not borne out by the evidence.
What happened, said the judge, was that Libby knew full well who Valerie Plame Wilson was. He discussed her not only with the vice president, but with several CIA officers and high-level state department officials. For whatever reason, said Judge Walton, Libby decided to reveal her identity to the media on several occasions. And then when he was confronted about it during the investigation, he had concerns he'd done something wrong, and so he lied about it.
The investigation into the leak of Valerie Plame Wilson's identity, said Judge Walton, was extremely serious. The CIA referred it to the Justice Department for investigation, and the department investigated the matter in good faith, only to be thwarted for some time by Libby.
There has to be a sentence, said the judge, that promotes respect for the law. And individuals have to understand when you transgress the law, there are consequences.
Nina Totenberg, NPR News, Washington.
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