Wednesday, June 6, 2007

More Than Fair

Jail Time for Scooter Libby

The NYT opines:

The jail sentence and fine imposed on Scooter Libby, the former chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, are an appropriate — indeed necessary — punishment for his repeated lies to a grand jury and to F.B.I. agents investigating a possible smear campaign orchestrated by the White House. Although Mr. Libby plans to appeal, as he has every legal right to, the judge ought to send him to jail now as a lesson that such efforts to frustrate justice will not be tolerated.

Mr. Libby was convicted in March for lying about his role in revealing the identity of Valerie Plame Wilson, a C.I.A. officer, as part of a campaign to discredit her husband, Joseph Wilson. He was a diplomat whose inquiries abroad had shot holes through a key premise for the war in Iraq, that Saddam Hussein had recently tried to buy uranium from Niger for a secret nuclear weapons program. Although Mr. Libby’s supporters make much of the fact that no one was ever indicted for leaking Ms. Wilson’s name, that should not obscure the fact that Mr. Libby did his best to derail efforts to find out who did it and why.

Federal District Judge Reggie Walton sentenced Mr. Libby to two and a half years in prison and fined him $250,000 based on “overwhelming evidence” of Mr. Libby’s guilt on four counts, including obstruction of justice, perjury and giving false statements. The jail term was at the low end of what the prosecutor had recommended but much harsher than the probation sought by Mr. Libby’s attorneys.

Although Libby partisans sometimes suggest that he is being railroaded because of anger over his zeal in promoting the disastrous war in Iraq, that is hardly the case here. Judge Walton, who was appointed to the federal bench by the current President Bush, is simply known for a tough-on-crime attitude that transcends politics.

Mr. Libby’s attorneys are asking that he be allowed to remain free while his appeal goes forward, but there is no good reason for Judge Walton to grant such undeserved leniency. Some analysts suggest that the Libby strategy is to run out the clock with an appeal and then count on a last-minute pardon from President Bush as he leaves office. At a time when high administration officials routinely dissemble and claim lapses of memory, immediate jail time for Mr. Libby, a convicted felon, is the best way to send a message that obstruction of justice will be severely punished.