Judge Reggie B. Walton has received more than 150 letters regarding the impending sentencing of Scooter Libby -- "some urging leniency for the defendant," Walton says, "and some expressing opprobrium at the defendant's actions and calling for the imposition of a substantial prison sentence."
Libby's defense team asked Walton this week to keep the letters secret -- including some from as-yet unidentified "public officials" -- until after Libby's June 5 sentencing hearing.
In an order filed today, Walton more or less agrees, but not for the reasons that Team Libby advanced. Walton says that the sheer volume of the letters and media requests that they be released is indicative of "both the high level of public interest in these proceedings and the weightiness of the underlying charges." But he also says that he can't think of any reason why the media should have the letters before he has digested them himself.
Walton's solution: He'll release the letters, subject to redactions needed to protect home phone numbers and addresses and the like, on June 5 or "as soon as practicable thereafter."
Update: Did either the president or the vice president write a letter on behalf of Libby? A reporter put that question to Tony Snow today. His answer: "I think you'll just have to wait and see." Snow insisted that he didn't know whether George W. Bush or Dick Cheney wrote letters, and he declined -- again -- to say anything at all about the possibility of a pardon for Libby.