Libby to Prison: Will Sentence Send a Message?

I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, now faces hard time in prison.

The 30-month prison sentence came following a dramatic hearing where Libby's wife was often seen wiping away tears.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys wrestled over whether Libby should serve prison time for lying to a grand jury that was investigating the leak of the identity of once-covert CIA operative Valerie Plame.

Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald argued, "The sentence needs to make clear that the truth matters and that one's station in life doesn't matter."

He said Libby had "shown absolutely no contrition."

"I think Fitzgerald wanted to make clear that if Scooter Libby got a light sentence in this case, it would send the wrong message to anyone else who was asked to testify truthfully before a grand jury investigation," said former federal prosecutor Michael Levy.

In a brief statement to Judge Reggie Walton, Libby admitted no wrongdoing, only asking that the court "consider my whole life."

The defense also submitted letters of support from former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and World Bank head Paul Wolfowitz, and Henry Kissinger, the secretary of state during the Nixon and Ford administrations, all touting Libby's time serving his country.

Libby's attorney, Ted Wells, pleaded for leniency, pointing to his client's government service and to the "public humiliation" of "overwhelmingly negative press coverage.

"He has fallen from public grace," Wells said. "It's a tragic fall. A tragic fall."

And Wells suggested Libby had been made a scapegoat for a highly unpopular war in Iraq.

"Mr. Libby was the poster child for all that has gone wrong with this troubled war," he stated.

Levy noted that Wells' approach of trying to drum up sympathy for Libby — contending that he had already suffered enough — could set him apart from other defendants "so the judge ought to take those collateral consequences into effect in deciding what additional punishment is necessary within the justice system."

But Walton was not persuaded. He acknowledged Libby's lengthy government service but said there was overwhelming evidence that Libby had lied. For that, Walton said, "there are consequences."

Cheney and President Bush expressed sadness for Libby and his family after the sentence came down.

Given the lengthy sentence, Bush now faces a difficult choice.

"If Scooter Libby is sitting in jail while that legal process plays out, it may put quite a bit of pressure on the president to make a decision about the pardon much sooner than he might like," Levy said.

Libby could be in jail within 60 days.