On this day in 2007, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton sentenced I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby to 30 months in federal prison, imposed a $250,000 fine and ordered Libby to undergo a further two years of supervised release, including 400 hours of community service.
In 2005, while he was chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, a federal grand jury indicted Libby, after an investigation into the leak of the covert identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson.
A jury subsequently found Libby guilty on one count of obstruction of justice, two counts of lying under oath and one count of making false statements. It acquitted him on a second count of making false statements.
Libby was the highest-ranking White House official to be convicted since John Poindexter, President Ronald Reagan’s national security adviser, was convicted during the Iran-Contra affair.
Libby’s appeal to overturn Walton’s order that he immediately start serving his sentence was rejected. However, in early July, as jail time loomed, President George W. Bush commuted Libby’s prison sentence, while leaving in place the remaining aspects of what Bush termed his “harsh punishment.” The president also observed that “the reputation [Libby] gained through his years of public service and professional work in the legal community is forever damaged.”
For his part, Cheney characterized the CIA leak investigation and Libby’s indictment and trial as politically motivated. He held that an overzealous prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, and a liberal Washington jury had wrongly criminalized Libby’s faulty memory of having spoken to NBC’s Tim Russert about the affair. Cheney initially declared himself satisfied with Bush’s no-jail-time split decision. But in 2008, as the administration drew to a close, he unsuccessfully pressed Bush to pardon Libby.
In 2013, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell restored Libby’s voting rights, along with those of some 1,000 other former felons.
On April 13, 2018, President Donald Trump granted Libby a pardon. “I don’t know Mr. Libby,” Trump said. “But for years I have heard that he has been treated unfairly. Hopefully, this full pardon will help rectify a very sad portion of his life.”
Libby said he and his family are “immensely grateful to President Trump for his gracious decision to grant a pardon,” adding: “For over a dozen years we have suffered under the weight of a terrible injustice.”
Cheney also thanked Trump. “He was a totally innocent man, and I want to thank the president for having done that,” Cheney said.
In response to the pardon, Fitzgerald said: “Mr. Libby, represented by able counsel, received a fair trial before an exacting trial judge and a jury who found the facts clearly established that Libby committed the crimes he was charged with. That was true yesterday. It remains true today. … The president has the right to pardon Mr. Libby and Mr. Libby has been pardoned. But the facts have not changed.”