Libby Sentenced

I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby has had his punishment meted out for lying to a grand jury and FBI agents who were investigating the outing of Valorie Plame in 2003.

Libby was actually sentenced three months ago, on March 6, for one count of giving false statements, one of obstructing justice, and two of perjury. Decision on the proper sentence has been drawn out around long arguments of highly technical issues that govern federal sentencing guidelines, and finally centered on a debate over how a person’s public service should affect the way he is sentenced for crimes he commits.

Libby’s defense argued that his client’s “tireless and selfless public service,” attested to in dozens of letters written by people who have worked with Libby over the years, should balance against the crimes he committed. Theodore Wells Jr., Libby’s chief lawyer, urged Judge Walton to place his client on probation, or even under house arrest, rather than send him to prison. Libby has already been punished heavily, Wells said, through the loss of his reputation, mental anguish, the suffering of his family, and the virtually certain loss of his license to practice law.

The prosecution is of course rather less lenient.

Two and a half years in prison is no cake walk for a man who grew up accustomed to wealth, power and comfort. Nevertheless, and even with the $250,000 fine meted out by Judge Walton, Libby’s sentence seems a little light.

One of the main arguments of the defense during these proceedings is that Libby is being singled out and scape-goated by many who are angry and frustrated about everything that has gone wrong with the Iraq war. Beings friends with many avid liberals, I must confess that this seems true. If Libby’s sentence were to fully reflect our nation’s anger and frustration over the war, he might be sentenced to six weeks of ceaseless, agonizing torture, then slowly flayed, drawn and quartered. This is not justice, but revenge against the universe for everything that is frightening and confusing.

But Libby is not guilty of the Iraq war, nor even of the outing of Valerie Wilson. He is guilty of four serious (but not catastrophic) crimes, and his sentence — a quarter of a million dollars in fines, two and a half years in prison, and living out the rest of his life in shame and obscurity — reflects this.

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