- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 7, 2007

A federal jury yesterday found former White House aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby Jr. guilty on four counts of perjury, obstruction of justice and lying to the FBI in an investigation into the leak of a CIA operative’s identity.

After 10 days of deliberations, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney was acquitted by a jury of seven women and four men on one count of lying to the FBI.

Libby, 56, is the only person charged in a case brought by Special Prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald after a four-year investigation into the 2003 leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame’s identity. Mrs. Plame is married to former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, who emerged in mid-2003 as an outspoken critic of the Bush administration’s case for the war in Iraq.

U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton ordered a pre-sentencing report by May 15, which will be used to determine Libby’s sentence. At sentencing on June 5, Libby faces up to 30 years in prison, although under federal sentencing guidelines he is expected to receive much less time.

Libby showed little reaction as the verdict was read and stood expressionless as the jury left the courtroom. His wife, Harriet Grant, sobbed as the verdict was read.

“We believe, as we said at the time of his indictment, that he is totally innocent, totally innocent, and that he did not do anything wrong,” said Libby’s attorney, Theodore Wells. “And we intend to keep fighting to establish his innocence.”

Mr. Wells said he will ask for a new trial and, failing that, will appeal the verdict. The defense team had said 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.

But Mr. Fitzgerald, who said no additional charges would be filed in the case, argued in court that Libby learned about Mrs. Plame from Mr. Cheney and other officials in June 2003 and relayed her name and CIA role to reporters.

“The results are actually sad,” Mr. Fitzgerald said. “It’s sad that we had a situation where a high-level official person who worked in the office of the vice president obstructed justice and lied under oath. We wish that it had not happened, but it did.”

One of the jurors, Denis Collins, a former reporter for The Washington Post, said the jury felt “a tremendous amount of sympathy for Mr. Libby,” adding that jurors asked each other on a number of occasions whether others should have been charged.

“What are we doing with this guy here? Where’s Rove? Where are these other guys? I’m not saying we didn’t think Mr. Libby was guilty of the things we found him guilty of. It seemed like he was, as Mr. Wells put it, he was the fall guy,” Mr. Collins said.

He said jurors wanted to hear testimony from others involved in the case, including Bush political adviser Karl Rove, described as one of two sources for the original leak.

At the White House, Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino said President Bush “respected the verdict” but was not going to comment on it. She said the president learned of the verdict from television and the White House rejected any characterization of it as embarrassing to the administration.

“I think that any administration that has to go through a prolonged news story that is unpleasant and one that is difficult when you’re under the constraints and the policy of not commenting on an ongoing criminal matter that can be very frustrating,” she said.

Mr. Cheney said he was “very disappointed” in the verdict and “saddened for Scooter and his family,” adding that Libby “served our nation tirelessly and with great distinction through many years of public service.” Because of continued litigation in the case, he said he would have “no further comment on the merits of this matter.”

On Capitol Hill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said testimony during the trial “unmistakably revealed at the highest levels of the Bush administration a callous disregard in handling sensitive national security information and a disposition to smear critics of the war in Iraq.”

She said the guilty verdicts were “not solely about the acts of one individual.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, said the trial “revealed deeper truths” about Mr. Cheney’s role in the leak and called on Mr. Bush for a pledge “not to pardon Libby for his criminal conduct.” He said it was “about time” someone in the Bush administration was held accountable “for the campaign to manipulate intelligence and discredit war critics.”

A grand jury indictment named Libby 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 the Republic of 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.

But questions have since been raised on Mr. Wilson’s statements that Mr. Cheney’s office had requested he be sent to Niger, whether Mr. Cheney and other senior White House aides were briefed on his report, whether the report was conclusive and significant, and who suggested he travel to Niger.

Mrs. Plame’s CIA role was revealed in a July 14, 2003, article by syndicated columnist Robert Novak eight days after Mr. Wilson wrote an article for the New York Times saying the Bush administration ignored intelligence on Iraq to justify the war.

S.A. Miller and Jon Ward contributed to this report.

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