President Bush commuted the 30 month jail sentence given to “Scooter” Libby shortly after Libby’s last appeal was denied. Libby was convicted of lying to federal prosecutors investigating the leak of a covert CIA agent’s identity. It is believed he lied to obfuscate Vice-President Cheney’s involvement in the leak; Libby was Cheney’s chief-of-staff at the time. Previously he was the author of a novel involving bestiality, rape, necrophilia and sex behind bars.
Bush’s clemency statement explains that he feels the sentence doled out by the judge was excessive. Judge Reggie Walton, a Bush appointee, sentenced Libby to 30 months in jail followed by 2 years of probation and a $250,000 fine. The probation and fine will remain in place.
A 1915 Supreme Court case found that accepting a pardon is an acknowledgment of guilt, and admitting guilt is generally a requirement of an application for any form of clemency. In principle then, Libby’s acceptance of this commutation should end his protestations of innocence.
Bush’s statement did not comment on why Libby’s sentence was excessive while the long jail sentences for non-violent drug offenders did not deserve the application of Presidential clemency, a power that the Founding Fathers referred to as the “benign prerogative,” and is hard to square with his history of mockery and serial indifference to death row inmates as governor of Texas. Nor did he clarify why Libby did not have to wait the customary 5 years before his application for a pardon was considered. Libby is only the 118th person to receive a pardon or commutation from the current President Bush. A 1994 study by the Justice Department concluded that almost a quarter of the federal prison population consisted of “low-level” drug offenders; their average sentence was 85 months. Other groups have estimated that between a third and half of prisoners at all levels are non-violent drug offenders. Most are sentenced to much more than 33 months in prison.