By Michael Abramowitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, dropped the appeal of his perjury conviction yesterday after concluding that it would be too costly and time-consuming to pursue the matter any further, his attorney announced.
"We remain firmly convinced of Mr. Libby's innocence," said lawyer Theodore V. Wells Jr. "However, the realities were, that after five years of government service by Mr. Libby and several years of defending against this case, the burden on Mr. Libby and his young family of continuing to pursue his complete vindication are too great to ask them to bear."
The statement also touched on the legal Catch-22 that Libby has found himself in: President Bush commuted Libby's 30-month prison sentence this summer but left in place his conviction in the CIA leak case. That means that even if Libby were to have won his appeal, he might still face a new trial that could result in prison time.
Wells noted in his statement that a successful appeal "would lead only to a retrial, a process that would last even beyond the two years of supervised release, cost millions of dollars more than the fine he has already paid, and entail many more hundreds of hours preparing for an all-consuming appeal and retrial."
Associates have said that the possibility of jail time down the road weighed on Libby, as well as his desire simply to move on with his life. Bush could theoretically offer a full pardon of Libby, but friends do not appear to be either expecting that or pushing for that, according to one person close to Libby who said the case is over.
In his statement in July commuting the sentence, Bush did not question the jury's verdict but said he thought the prison term was excessive, a strong sign of how difficult it would be for Libby to win a full pardon. Libby has already paid a $250,000 fine and must complete 400 hours of community service.
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino refused to be drawn into a discussion about the issue, saying, "We never comment on whether or not the president will be granting or not granting pardons to anybody."
The White House has steadfastly refused to comment about the leak case, citing the ongoing legal proceedings, and Perino maintained that position yesterday, saying she had not spoken to the president about the matter.
Former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, husband of former CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson, whose status was compromised by administration officials, said he plans to continue exploring how and why her identity was leaked to the media through the couple's civil suit against Libby and other officials.
"By dropping his appeal, Mr. Libby has finally abandoned the pretense that his conviction was a miscarriage of justice," Wilson said in a statement, while also warning that a pardon would be "completely at odds with the president's earlier claim that he would not tolerate anyone on his team leaking a covert CIA officer's identity."