Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Libby Has Been Nifonged - Bush Should Pardon Libby Immediately

Federal District Court Judge Reggie Walton Lewis sentenced Lewis "Scooter" Libby to 2 1/2 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for perjury and obstruction of justice. This prosecution was brought by Patrick Fitzgerald, appointed Special Prosecutor after Bob Novak published the identity of Valerie Plame, a CIA agent, in a 2003 column. Fitzgerald was charged with determining whether a crime was committed in the publication Plame's identity and if so, who committed the crime.

It has since become clear that, very shortly after taking the position of Special Prosecutor, Fitzgerald determined that Plame was not a covert agent under the statute at issue and that the person who leaked the identity of Valerie Plame was Richard Armitage. That should have ended the Special Prosecutor's mandate. It did not. Instead, millions of tax dollars and several years later, Fitzgerald was able to make a case for perjury and obstruction against Libby.

It is one thing for the federal government to charge someone with perjury during an ongoing investigaion where there is a question whether a crime was committed and who committed it. But with no underlying crime and with the identity of the person who leaked made known to Fitzgerald soon after his apointment, what Fitzgerald did in no way resembeled a legitimate investigation of criminal wrongdoing. What Fitzgerald conducted was an inquisition.

To add to this overreaching, at today's sentencing hearing, Fitzgerald argued for a very stiff sentence for Libby based on the seriousness of the underlying act of identifying a "covert agent." That is simply mystifying when there was no charge ever brought against Libby or anyone else for such a criminal act. Thus, it was even more ridiculous that the Judge apparently agreed with Fitzgerald, ignoring the federal sentencing guidelines that suggest a significantly lesser penalty then what the Judge imposed.

This alone would appear to be a clearly appealable issue. Yet the judge today said that he is disinclined to allow Libby to remain free pending his appeal.

President Bush needs to end this Nifongesque travesty of prosecutorial overreaching. He needs to pardon Lewis Scooter Libby immediately.

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