Libby Found Guilty in CIA Leak Case
Wednesday, March 7, 2007
A federal jury convicted I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby yesterday of lying about his role in the leak of an undercover CIA officer's identity, culminating a four-year legal saga that transfixed official Washington and revealed the inner workings of the White House and the media.
After 10 days of deliberations, the 11 jurors found Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff guilty of four felony counts of making false statements to the FBI, lying to a grand jury and obstructing a probe into the leak of Valerie Plame's identity. The jury acquitted him of one count of lying to the FBI about his conversation with a Time magazine reporter. Libby is the highest-ranking White House official to be convicted of a felony since the Iran-contra scandal nearly two decades ago.
Under federal sentencing guidelines, Libby faces a possible prison term of 1 1/2 to three years, but U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton will have wide latitude when he imposes his sentence on June 5. Defense attorneys said they will ask the presiding judge for a new trial or appeal the conviction. The White House declined to comment on the possibility of a pardon.
"We believe, as we said at the time of his indictment, that he is totally innocent, totally innocent, and that he did not do anything wrong," said attorney Theodore Wells Jr. "And we intend to keep fighting to establish his innocence."
Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald said on the courthouse steps that he felt "gratified" that the jury agreed with the government's case.
"The results are actually sad," he said. "It's sad that we had a situation where a high-level official, a person who worked in the office of the vice president, obstructed justice and lied under oath. We wish that it had not happened, but it did."
One juror, Denis Collins, said he and fellow jurors had little doubt after reviewing the evidence that Libby could not have forgotten how he learned Plame's identity -- the core of the defense's argument.
"It just seemed very unlikely he would have forgotten that. There were just so many things," said Collins, a writer who worked as a Washington Post reporter in the 1980s. "That he could remember that fact on a Tuesday and forget it on a Thursday . . . didn't make sense."
Libby, 56, was the only person charged in an unprecedented leak investigation that led to the questioning of Cheney and President Bush, though neither testified at the trial. Fitzgerald set out in December 2003 to answer a central question: Did anyone in the administration intentionally and illegally disclose Plame's classified status during the late spring and early summer of that year? At that time, several top officials were speaking to reporters, trying to rebut potent accusations from Plame's husband that the administration had twisted intelligence to justify war in Iraq.
Libby was not charged with the leak but with lying repeatedly to the FBI and a grand jury about how he learned about Plame's identity, and what he told reporters about her that spring and summer.
Libby has said that he forgot he learned about Plame from Cheney in June 2003, and that he believed he heard of her for the first time a month later from NBC's Tim Russert. He said he then shared the information with other reporters.
Fitzgerald said he does not expect to bring any more charges unless new information comes to light.