Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

The Anonymous Liberal on the commutation

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Very good points:

One-Off Justice, Republican Style

So apparently President Bush has commuted Scooter Libby’s prison sentence, ensuring that he will spend no time in prison for the multiple felonies of which he has been convicted. Because this is not a full pardon, I presume the President believes that Libby did in fact commit these crimes. And because he is not pushing Congress to change the sentencing guidelines that apply to crimes like perjury and obstruction of justice, I presume he thinks that they are fair and reasonable (at least when applied to people not named Scooter).

So what we have here is a case of one-off justice, Republican style. Libby, apparently, doesn’t deserve to be treated the way the law demands that others be treated. He’s special. And what makes him special? Clearly nothing other than the fact that he is a well-connected Republican.

It’s hard for me to put into words how totally indefensible I find this move. While I can’t say I’m surprised, the reality of it is still a little shocking to me. It’s just so brazenly unprincipled. If I were Patrick Fitzgerald (or really any of the prosecutors who devoted time and energy to this case), I would quit in protest. To go through a two year investigation and a lengthy trial (all the while dealing with countless motions filed by a team of lawyers doing everything they can to stall the process), to finally win a resounding conviction, and then to have the sentence commuted for no apparent reason other than the fact that the convicted felon is a close friend of the Vice President (and likely lied to protect him), well, that must be pretty difficult to take for people like Fitzgerald who have devoted their entire careers to the criminal justice system. That’s how justice works in banana republics. It’s not supposed to be the way our system works.

I don’t know whether this will hurt or help the President politically, but I’m pretty confident it won’t generate the outrage it deserves. This is an act of extreme hubris, and it will serve to normalize behavior that just shouldn’t be acceptable in a democracy. Presidents should not be in the business of pardoning members of their own administration. It reeks of corruption and it undermines faith in the system.

If the President thinks 30 months is too stiff a sentence for the crimes Libby was convicted of (and for which he showed no contrition), then he has a moral obligation to take the steps necessary to correct similar injustices that have occurred or will occur in the future. He should start reviewing all the sentences of people convicted of similar crimes and push for legislation to reduce the relevant sentencing guidelines. I can virtually guarantee you that won’t happen, though. After all, the guiding principle throughout this affair has been that it’s only unjust when it happens to Scooter.

UPDATE: The White House has released a statement. Here’s the key part:

Mr. Libby was sentenced to thirty months of prison, two years of probation, and a $250,000 fine. In making the sentencing decision, the district court rejected the advice of the probation office, which recommended a lesser sentence and the consideration of factors that could have led to a sentence of home confinement or probation.

I respect the jury’s verdict. But I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive. Therefore, I am commuting the portion of Mr. Libby’s sentence that required him to spend thirty months in prison.

A few key points worth noting: 1) judges routinely reject the advice of the probation office, and 2) though the probation office did recommend a lesser sentence for Libby, it wasn’t much less. He still would have gone to prison for almost 2 years. Bush chose to commute his entire sentence, something the probation office would not have supported in a million years. What Bush is opposed to is any prison sentence, not an “excessive” one.

UPDATE II: Keep in mind, this is a guy who in all his time in Texas never commuted a single death sentence. But now he intervenes because a 30 month sentence for committing multiple serious felonies–a sentence that is well-within the sentencing guidelines–is “excessive.”

Written by LeisureGuy

2 July 2007 at 6:06 pm

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