Judge Wants Libby to Head to Prison, Despite Pending Appeal

A federal judge ruled that Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff should report to prison within the next 45 to 60 days, despite a pending appeal of his conviction.

Judge Reggie Walton said I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby is "not a danger to the community," but that there is also "not a likelihood it [his conviction] will be overturned."

Libby's lawyers are expected to file an emergency appeal of Walton's ruling within the next few days.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons will review Libby's file and designate a time and place for him to report and begin serving his sentence.

Walton ordered Libby to serve 30 months in prison and pay $250,000 in fines last week but had postponed a determination of the start date of Libby's sentence to allow the defense and prosecution teams time to prepare their respective arguments.

A federal jury found Libby guilty March 6 on charges saying he'd lied to the FBI and a grand jury, and obstructed justice in the investigation into the leak of the identity Valerie Plame, a former covert CIA operative.

Trial Judge Threatened

At the top of the hearing, Walton said he had received hate mail and phone calls since the sentencing. "Unfortunately, I received a number of angry and meanspirited letters and phone calls … wishing bad things on me and my family," Walton said.

Walton said he discarded the letters but then, given the volume, decided to keep them in case anyone acted on the threats.

The judge said the harassment would not influence his decision.

Defense Attacks Federal Prosecutor's Authority

Walton heard from the defense and prosecution for 30 minutes each before the lunch recess.

Libby appeared more tense than he had during much of the trial, at times tapping his fingers on the table.

Defense attorney Larry Robins argued that Patrick Fitzgerald, who was named as the special prosecutor in the CIA Leak investigation, lacked proper authority to bring the case against Libby.

Robins argued that the Justice Department gave Fitzgerald more authority than he should have been granted in his role. Fitzgerald "was expressly exempted from … following DOJ policy and procedure," Robins said.

The official at the Justice Department who granted Fitzgerald the authority to investigate the case served as an assistant U.S. attorney in the same New York district as Fitzgerald in the early 1990s.

"He was given the freedom … no special counsel has ever been given," Robins said.

"When someone doesn't have a supervisor … given the widest swath … sometimes things go wrong," Robins argued.

Classified Information

Additionally, Robins argued that Fitzgerald had overstepped the Classified Information Procedures Act, which notes that only the attorney general or the deputy attorney general can declassify certain information, such as that contained in some documents submitted into evidence in Libby's case — specifically, CIA, White House and State Department memos.

"He thinks he is the attorney general," Robins said of Fitzgerald.

But Judge Walton pointed out that some of the objections mentioned by Robins were never raised during the trial.

Fitzgerald Fires Back

Fitzgerald argued that he did have the proper authority and that Judge Walton had considered the CIPA requests. "That was transparent," the prosecutor said.

Fitzgerald argued that the CIPA process may not be appropriately raised after the trial "to say gotcha."

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