Thursday, June 14, 2007

Judge in Libby Trial Received Threats

The AP reports:

The federal judge who oversaw I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's CIA leak trial said Thursday that he received threatening letters and phone calls after sentencing the former White House aide to prison.

"I received a number of angry, harassing mean-spirited phone calls and letters," U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton said. "Some of those were wishing bad things on me and my family."

Walton made the remarks as he opened a hearing into whether to delay Libby's 2 1/2-year sentence. He said he was holding the letters in case something happened but said they would have no effect on Thursday's decision.

Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, argues that he shouldn't have to report to prison until his appeals have run out.

Walton has said he's not inclined to grant that request. But even if he rules that way, it is unlikely Libby would be taken away in handcuffs. Rather, it would lead to more maneuvering in Libby's legal fight.

Libby's newly formed appellate team — Lawrence S. Robbins and Mark Stancil — are standing by. If Libby loses Thursday, his lawyers have said they will ask an appeals court for an emergency order delaying the sentence. Because one of the issues in the appeal is whether Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald had the authority to charge Libby, defense lawyers also could ask the Supreme Court to step in.

Then there is the pardon question.

Libby's supporters have called for President Bush wipe away Libby's convictions. Bush publicly has sidestepped pardon questions, saying he wants to let the legal case play out.

If Bush were to decide to issue a pardon, a delay would give him more flexibility to pick a time that makes the most political sense.

Bush's father pardoned former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and five others in the Iran-Contra arms and money affair on Christmas Eve 1992.

President Clinton pardoned more than 100 people on his way out the White House door, including former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros and Whitewater scandal figure Susan McDougal.

After a monthlong trial, jurors found in March that Libby lied to investigators about how he learned that Valerie Plame, the wife of an outspoken war critic, worked for the CIA, and whom he told.

Libby maintains his innocence and says any misstatements were the result of a bad memory, not deception.

To win a delay of his sentence, Libby's lawyers would have to show there was a good chance they could overturn the conviction on appeal.

Attorneys argue that, during trial, they were unfairly prohibited from discussing the classified issues that were weighing on Libby's mind at the time of the leak and from questioning witnesses that could have helped his case.