Wednesday, July 04, 2007

"Scooter" Libby, Hypocrisy, and Impeachment

From the AP:

President Bush knew what he was getting in 2001 when he made Reggie B. Walton one of his first picks for a seat on the federal bench: a tough-on-crime judge with a reputation for handing down stiff sentences.

former deputy drug adviser, federal prosecutor and Superior Court judge, Walton seemed a perfect fit for the new president. And Walton didn't disappoint, proving to be exactly the kind of no-nonsense judge Bush was looking for.

Until now.

When erasing former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's 2 1/2-year prison term in the CIA leak case, Bush said Walton was being too harsh...

"The party who appointed him is now unhappy with what he appointed him to do," said Scott L. Fredericksen, a defense attorney who served as a prosecutor under every president since Ronald Reagan.
Wait, it gets worse.

Also noteworthy, defense attorneys said, was seeing the White House urge leniency just weeks after the Bush administration announced a tough new crime bill that would bar judges from going easy on criminals. They would be free to impose longer sentences, but not shorter ones.
Aside from this clear hypocrisy, the evidence is clear that this was not some unusually excessive sentence, as is being claimed by many defenders of Bush's action.

To hear Snow tell it, Walton ignored the recommendation of probation officials and sentenced Libby to prison. That isn't what happened. Probation officers recommended Libby serve 15-21 months. Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald recommended more than 30 months. Libby's attorneys asked for probation.

Walton accepted Fitzgerald's interpretation of the law, which said Libby should be sentenced more harshly because of the seriousness of the investigation he obstructed.

The 2 1/2 years handed Libby was much like the sentences given others convicted in obstruction cases. Federal court records indicate that 382 people were convicted for obstruction of justice over the past two years. Three of four were sent to prison. The average prison term was 64 months, more than five years. The largest group of defendants drew prison terms ranging from 13 months to 31 months.

"This is sort of a standard sentence in that situation," said defense attorney Mark H. Tuohey.

"Call it what you want, but that's what it is. This was not some out-of-the-blue-sentence."
Hell, as David Van Os points out, the Bush/Roberts Court even recently ruled such a sentence is not "excessive" too:

In a decision announced on June 21, 2007, the US Supreme Court in Rita v. United States upheld as reasonable under federal sentencing law a prison sentence of 33 months for the offense of perjury committed in testimony to a grand jury, which is virtually the same sentence imposed on Scooter Libby for the same offense.

The defendant Victor Rita was a 25-year military veteran with 35 commendations, awards and medals for his military service, and in poor medical condition. He contended that the length of his prison term was unreasonable in light of his exemplary service to the country and his health circumstances. The Supreme Court granted review in order to examine and clarify the issue of how to determine the reasonableness of a prison sentence.

Twelve days after the Supreme Court held as a matter of law that a sentence of 33 months of prison for perjury was reasonable for a decorated veteran in poor health, the president, whose sworn duty is to see that the laws are faithfully executed, commuted Scooter Libby's similar sentence for the same offense as "excessive". The federal Sentencing Guidelines say that 33 months is the recommended minimum sentence for the crime of perjury, with the recommended range being 33-41 months.

According to the nation's president, however, the Sentencing Guideline for this is too harsh. Victor Rita's sentence should be commuted, don't you think?
Of course, Tony Snow stated that a full pardon isn't out of the question, so the argument that Bush commuted the sentence simply because the prison sentence was too "excessive" is clearly a bullshit excuse anyway. Keith Olbermann very eloquently called for Bush and Cheney to resign over this on last night's Countdown:

Of course, they won't resign. You know, I've been against pushing the impeachment of Bush and Cheney for awhile, but now I think it's too appropriate not to be seriously considered at least. It takes a two-thirds majority in the Senate to convict, so they wouldn't be removed from office, but it takes only a simple majority for the House of Representatives to impeach (an idea that keeps gaining support from Democrats in Congress, at least for Cheney) and thus, formally indict them for their crimes. It's the closest thing we could get to a deserved censure for the two.

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