I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, was sentenced to 30 months in prison on Tuesday (June 5) for lying to investigators and obstructing inquiries into the leak of former CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity.
CNN reported that the sentence, which also included a fine of $250,000 and two years' probation, will now set up an expected appeal from Libby's lawyers. They have argued that their client was never implicated in the more serious crime of leaking Plame's name — the case involves Libby's statements to the FBI and a grand jury investigating how Plame's identity was leaked.
Under federal sentencing guidelines, he will have to serve at least two years of the sentence. The judge in the case has not yet announced whether he will grant Libby bail while he is awaiting his appeal.
"People who occupy these types of positions, where they have the welfare and security of nation in their hands, have a special obligation to not do anything that might create a problem," U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton said, according to The Associated Press.
Libby, who has maintained his innocence all along and did not testify during the trial (see " 'Scooter' Libby Pleads Not Guilty in CIA Leak Case"), was convicted on March 6 on four counts of a five-count indictment alleging perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements to FBI investigators. Libby is the only person charged in the Plame investigation and is the highest ranking government official to be convicted in a government scandal in 20 years.
"It is respectfully my hope that the court will consider, along with the jury verdict, my whole life," Libby requested of the judge.
Prior to the sentencing, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said he was seeking the three-year sentence for Libby because the investigation into the leak was so important, although Libby's lawyers — who were seeking no jail time for their client — argued that it was unfair to increase his sentence because the investigation was serious, the AP reported.
"No one was ever charged. Nobody ever pleaded guilty," Libby attorney William Jeffress said. "The government did not establish the existence of an offense."
Judge Walton did not agree with that line of reasoning, saying by that logic witnesses would benefit if they aggressively obstruct investigations and prevent prosecutors from making their case. "I just can't buy in on that being good social policy," Walton told the AP. "It's one thing if you obstruct a petty larceny. It's another thing if you obstruct a murder investigation."
Once Libby appeals, it remains to be seen whether President Bush will have enough time left in his second term to issue a pardon before the case is concluded, which some have speculated he might do.