Thursday, July 05, 2007

Justice for all

In case you hadn't heard, Scooter Libby's 30-month prison sentence was commuted on Monday by President Bush. The reason, according to the president, is that "the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive." The LA Times begs to disagree:
But records show that the Justice Department under the Bush administration frequently has sought sentences that are as long, or longer, in cases similar to Libby's. Three-fourths of the 198 defendants sentenced in federal court last year for obstruction of justice — one of four crimes Libby was found guilty of in March — got some prison time. According to federal data, the average sentence defendants received for that charge alone was 70 months.
And the New York Times cites a similar case where clemency hasn't been granted:
Similarly, in a case decided two weeks ago by the United States Supreme Court and widely discussed by legal specialists in light of the Libby case, the Justice Department persuaded the court to affirm the 33-month sentence of a defendant whose case closely resembled that against Mr. Libby. The defendant, Victor A. Rita, was, like Mr. Libby, convicted of perjury, making false statements to federal agents and obstruction of justice. Mr. Rita has performed extensive government service, just as Mr. Libby has. Mr. Rita served in the armed forces for more than 25 years, receiving 35 commendations, awards and medals. Like Mr. Libby, Mr. Rita had no criminal history for purposes of the federal sentencing guidelines.

The judges who sentenced the two men increased their sentences by taking account of the crimes about which they lied. Mr. Rita’s perjury concerned what the court called “a possible violation of a machine-gun registration law”; Mr. Libby’s of a possible violation of a federal law making it a crime to disclose the identities of undercover intelligence agents in some circumstances.

When Mr. Rita argued that his 33-month sentence had failed to consider his history and circumstances adequately, the Justice Department strenuously disagreed.

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