Monday, July 2, 2007
The Wall Street Jrl headline is: "Bush Spares Libby From Prison Term." (see also CNN) Just hours ago a three judge panel ruled against Libby's request for an appeal bond (see here). We are now seeing President Bush's response to this ruling. Commuting the sentence will mean that I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby will continue to have a federal conviction. He will have to pay his fine and will remain on probation. It will mean, however, that the 30 month sentence will not have to be served. Obvious questions:
Is Libby receiving treatment that other offenders are not given - e.g. - Siegelman, Scrushy, Olis, Ebbers, and the long list of other individuals convicted of white collar crimes. And how about all the other offenders serving time in prison? And how will Martha Stewart feel about this - she served a sentence for similar alleged conduct?
Does Libby deserve this special treatment? Many claim he does and many say the opposite? Does this presidential decision negate the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines - a move to keep sentences equal for like defendants?
It will be interesting to hear the President's comments on why this decision was made. Obviously more Commentary will follow.
UPDATE: The President's statement is available here. He explains:
I respect the jury's verdict. But I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive. Therefore, I am commuting the portion of Mr. Libby's sentence that required him to spend thirty months in prison.
My decision to commute his prison sentence leaves in place a harsh punishment for Mr. Libby. The reputation he gained through his years of public service and professional work in the legal community is forever damaged. His wife and young children have also suffered immensely. He will remain on probation. The significant fines imposed by the judge will remain in effect. The consequences of his felony conviction on his former life as a lawyer, public servant, and private citizen will be long-lasting.
The Constitution gives the President the power of clemency to be used when he deems it to be warranted. It is my judgment that a commutation of the prison term in Mr. Libby's case is an appropriate exercise of this power.