- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Former White House aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby Jr. was sentenced yesterday to 30 months in prison on his conviction last month on four counts of perjury, obstruction of justice and lying to the FBI in an investigation into the disclosure of the identity of a CIA agent.

U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton also fined Libby $250,000 and ordered him to serve two years’ probation after he leaves prison. The judge did not set a date for Libby to report to prison. He said he sees no reason to allow Libby to remain free pending appeal, but would accept written arguments on the issue and rule later.

President Bush, through a spokesman, expressed sympathy for the Libby family, but said there would be no pardon at this time.

Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, was the only person charged by Special Prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald in a four-year investigation into the 2003 outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame — wife of former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, an outspoken critic of the Bush administration’s case for the war in Iraq.

“People who occupy these types of positions, where they have the welfare and security of the nation in their hands, have a special obligation to not do anything that might create a problem,” Judge Walton said in handing down the sentence.

Libby, 56, stood calmly before a packed courtroom as Judge Walton, nominated to the bench in 2001 by Mr. Bush, said the evidence overwhelmingly proved his guilt. He had faced up to 30 years in prison, but received less time under federal sentencing guidelines.

“It is, respectfully, my hope that the court will consider, along with the jury verdict, my whole life,” Libby said in brief remarks to the judge. He presented the court with letters of support from several former military commanders and White House and State Department officials asking for no prison time and citing a career they said helped win the Cold War and the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

The highest-ranking White House official convicted in a government scandal since the Iran-Contra affair, Libby had steadfastly maintained his innocence.

“He has fallen from public grace,” said defense lawyer Theodore Wells. “It is a tragic fall, a tragic fall.”

Mr. Wells has said he will appeal the verdict, adding that Libby recalled his conversations to the best of his ability and that any inaccurate statements he made to the FBI or the federal grand jury were the result of a faulty memory.

Mr. Fitzgerald, who had sought a sentence of up to 37 months, said, “We need to make the statement that the truth matters ever so much.”

Deputy White House press secretary Dana Perino, accompanying the president on Air Force One from the Czech Republic to Germany, told reporters that Mr. Bush “felt terrible for the family, especially for his wife and kids.” She said the president would comment no further on the case at this time.

In a statement, Mr. Cheney said Libby dedicated much of his life to public service and “served the nation tirelessly and with great distinction.” He said he considered him “a man of the highest intellect, judgment and personal integrity — a man fully committed to protecting the vital security interests of the United States and its citizens.”

“Scooter is also a friend, and on a personal level, Lynne and I remain deeply saddened by this tragedy and its effect on his wife, Harriet, and their young children,” he said. “The defense has indicated it plans to appeal. … Speaking as friends, we hope our system will return a final result consistent with what we know of this fine man.”

By comparison, Libby’s sentence of 30 months and a $250,000 fine was much stiffer than the 100 hours of community service and $50,000 fine handed to Samuel R. Berger, the Clinton White House national security adviser caught taking highly classified documents from the National Archives.

Mr. Berger, national security adviser from 1997 to 2001, was convicted of removing documents from the Archives in 2005 while preparing to testify before the September 11 commission. He also was ordered to undergo a polygraph test if asked, although the Justice Department has declined to administer the test.

Rep. Thomas M. Davis III of Virginia, ranking Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Governmental Reform, has called for a new investigation by the committee into the Berger theft, saying the Justice Department gave him a “free pass” in its investigation.

In a terse letter signed by 17 Republicans, he said the department was “unacceptably incurious” about Mr. Berger’s visits to the Archives in May 2002 and July 2003 and never told the September 11 commission that he had removed original, uninventoried documents.

In the Libby case, a grand jury indictment named him on two counts of perjury, two counts of lying to the FBI and one count of obstruction of justice. He was accused of leaking Mrs. Plame’s CIA role to reporters after Mr. Wilson disputed Mr. Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address justifying the war in Iraq.

Mr. Wilson took two trips to Niger to investigate accusations that Iraq had purchased or was in the process of buying uranium yellowcake, reporting that he found no evidence to support the claims.

c Jon Ward contributed to this article.

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