WASHINGTON, June 5, 2007 -- Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff is headed to prison for 2½ years.
Federal Judge Reggie Walton also ordered I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby to pay $250,000 in fines. Additionally, the former aide will be on probation for two years following the completion of his prison term.
In a written statement released several hours after the sentencing, Cheney had warm words for his former aide, calling him a man of "the highest intellect, judgment and personal integrity" who is "fully committed to protecting the vital security interests of the United States and its citizens."
"Scooter is also a friend," Cheney continued in his statement, "and on a personal level, Lynne and I remain deeply saddened by this tragedy and its effect on his wife, Harriet, and their young children."
Noting that the defense has filed an appeal, the statement continued, "Speaking as friends, we hope that our system will return a final result consistent with what we know of this fine man."
'Consider My Whole Life'
Libby made a brief statement saying to Judge Walton before hearing his fate, saying he appreciated the kindness the court has shown him and his family. Libby did not admit to any mistakes, but said, "I ask that you consider my whole life."
The former aide and his wife, Harriet Grant, appeared stoic as the judge issued the punishment. Lawyers William Jeffress and Ted Wells stood next to their client during the sentencing.
Libby's legal team argued that Libby should remain free on bond, as an appeal of his conviction was filed in April. The judge said he would accept written arguments from the prosecution and the defense, and rule on that matter next week.
If Walton strikes down the defense's argument, Libby will likely report to prison within the next 45-60 days.
Libby did not speak to reporters as he left the federal courthouse in Washington, D.C.
White House Aide to Convicted Felon
Libby was convicted in March on four felony charges -- accusing him of lying to the FBI and a grand jury, as well as obstructing justice -- related to the CIA Leak probe, the three-year investigation that revealed the behind-the-scenes workings of the White House's inner circle.
Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald told Judge Walton of the difficulty his team had in trying to run down the lies Libby told the grand jury and the FBI.
"He put the investigators in a house of mirrors," he said. "We had to chase down those rabbit holes because he was lying to us." Fitzgerald continued.
In asking for a tough sentence, Fitzgerald asked Judge Walton to be firm.
"[You] need to make a statement that truth matters in the judicial system... the whole system depends on that."
Fitzgerald also said, "his [Libby's] persistence in lying... caused us great frustration."
Defense Asked for Leniency
Libby's defense attorney, Ted Wells, made the plea for leniency because of his client's "exceptional government service."
Wells told Judge Walton people should be "sentenced on their individuals characteristics... based on the good deeds they have done."
The attorney also read several letters of support for Mr. Libby from current and former government officials, including the World Bank's soon to be former boss Paul Wolfowitz, the National Institutes of Health's Dr. Anthony Fauci and Adm. Joseph Lopez.
Walton allowed Wells to read them for the record but said, "I've read all the letters."
Defense Said He's Innocent, Prosecution Called Fall From Grace 'Sad'
A federal jury found Libby guilty March 6, 2007 of charges claiming he lied to the FBI and a grand jury, and obstructed justice.
Libby attorney Ted Wells insisted after the conviction that his client is "totally innocent" and that "he did not do anything wrong." The defense claimed Libby had a spotty memory, and should not have been convicted because of it.
But also after the conviction, prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said it was "sad" that a "high level official in the vice president's office lied."
The jury of seven women and four men concluded Libby lied to FBI agents and a grand jury throughout the course of the investigation into the leaked identity of Valerie Plame, a one time undercover CIA operative.
Prosecutors argued Libby helped lead a campaign to refute and discredit Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson.
The defense countered by attacking the credibility of key prosecution witnesses and citing Libby's faulty memory as the cause for any discrepancy in his statements, but the jury was not convinced.
Wilson's criticism of the administration's case for war against Iraq came to a head in July of 2003, when he wrote a blistering opinion piece in the New York Times.
In the article, Wilson stated bluntly, "Based on my experience with the administration in the months leading up to the war, I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat."
In a statement released after the verdict, Wilson said he and his wife, Valerie Plame, are "grateful that justice has been served."
"We are also saddened for the pain that Mr. Libby has inflicted on his family friends, and the nation," Wilson continued.
"Mr. Libby benefited from the best this country had to offer: the finest schools, a lucrative career as a lawyer and many years of service in Republican administrations. That he would knowingly lie, perjure himself and obstruct a legitimate criminal investigation is incomprehensible."
Bush Feels 'Terrible'
President Bush, traveling in Europe for the G-8 summit, was informed of the sentence by his staff. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Bush "felt terrible for the family -- the wife and kids" as well as for Libby.
There has been speculation that the President could pardon the former aide to the Vice President, but after Libby's conviction in March, Perino called talk of a pardon "wildly hypothetical."
ABC News' Karen Travers contributed to this report.