Awaiting sentence

Questions to ponder while Judge Reggie Walton decides Scooter Libby's fate.

By Tim Grieve
June 5, 2007 5:03PM (UTC)
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At some point in the next hour or so, Judge Reggie B. Walton will be pronouncing Scooter Libby's sentence for committing perjury, making false statements and obstructing justice in the course of Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation into the outing of Valerie Plame.

The big questions, of course, are how much time Libby gets -- Fitzgerald is asking for 30 to 37 months; Libby's lawyers are seeking probation only -- and what George W. Bush will see fit to do about it. But there are a few smaller questions worth pondering as we watch for news of Walton's decision. Among them:


Will Libby speak? The defendant never took the stand during his trial, but he'll have another opportunity before he is sentenced. The catch? It's hard to know what Libby could say. His lawyers are arguing that what he did wasn't really a crime, or wasn't much of one anyway, and that he's a swell guy who just isn't prison material. And with an appeal in the works, Libby can't very well admit to his wrongdoing and throw himself on the mercy of the court. But as a defense attorney and trial advocacy instructor at Yale tells the Associated Press, "The only thing any sentencing judge wants to hear is remorse, and if they don't think it comes from the heart or they think they're only sorry for getting caught, for losing their job, or for going to jail, it doesn't count."

Who wrote the letters? We know that Walton has received more than 150 letters regarding Libby's sentence, including some from government officials. Is there one in the pile from the vice president? From the president? Walton has said that he'll start releasing the letters as soon as personal details can be redacted.

How peeved is the judge? Assuming he decides that Libby has at least some prison time coming, Walton has a choice to make: Put the sentence on hold pending Libby's appeal, or remand the defendant immediately to the custody of the U.S. marshals. Libby probably isn't much of a flight risk, a factor that would otherwise weigh in favor of immediate incarceration. But Walton has a reputation as a tough-on-crime judge, and it's easy to imagine that he's not particularly happy with a lawyer and powerful public official who lied under oath -- especially a lawyer and powerful public official who continues to maintain, at least through his lawyers, that it's no big thing.

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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