[JURIST] US Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald [official website] has questioned President Bush's classification of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's 30-month sentence for perjury and obstruction of justice as "excessive" [statement], saying Monday that Libby's sentence "was imposed pursuant to the laws governing sentencings which occur every day throughout this country." Bush's comment accompanied his commutation of Libby's prison sentence [clemency grant; JURIST report]; Bush did not pardon Libby and left his $250,000 fine and court-ordered two years of supervised release intact. In a statement [E&P report] Monday, Fitzgerald said:
We fully recognize that the Constitution provides that commutation decisions are a matter of presidential prerogative and we do not comment on the exercise of that prerogative.Fitzgerald noted that "Mr. Libby remains convicted by a jury of serious felonies," and said that his office "will continue to seek to preserve those convictions through the appeals process."
We comment only on the statement in which the President termed the sentence imposed by the judge as 'excessive.' The sentence in this case was imposed pursuant to the laws governing sentencings which occur every day throughout this country. In this case, an experienced federal judge considered extensive argument from the parties and then imposed a sentence consistent with the applicable laws. It is fundamental to the rule of law that all citizens stand before the bar of justice as equals. That principle guided the judge during both the trial and the sentencing.
Fitzgerald was appointed as special counsel [DOJ materials] in 2003 to investigate the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity [JURIST news archive]. Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, was the only person charged in connection to the leak and was convicted [JURIST report] in March 2007 of perjury and obstruction of justice. Bush's decision to commute Libby's sentence came hours after a federal appeals court refused to delay his prison sentence [order, PDF; JURIST report] pending his appeal of the conviction.