Tuesday, March 06, 2007


Libby Found Guilty

Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was convicted Tuesday of lying and obstructing a leak investigation that reached into the highest levels of the Bush administration.

Libby is the highest-ranking White House official to be convicted of a felony since the Iran-Contra scandal of the mid-1980s. The case brought new attention to the Bush administration's much-criticized handling of weapons of mass destruction intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war.

The verdict culminated a nearly four-year investigation into how CIA official Valerie Plame's name was leaked to reporters in 2003. The trial revealed that top members of the administration were eager to discredit Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who accused the administration of doctoring prewar intelligence on Iraq.

Libby, who was once Cheney's most trusted adviser and an assistant to President Bush, was expressionless as the jury verdict was announced on the 10th day of deliberations. His wife, Harriet Grant, choked out a sob and lowered her head.

Libby could face up to 25 years in prison when he is sentenced June 5, but under federal sentencing guidelines is likely to face far less. Defense attorneys immediately promised to ask for a new trial or appeal the conviction.

Cheney said late Tuesday he was disappointed with the verdict.

"I am saddened for Scooter and his family," Cheney said. "Scooter has served our nation tirelessly and with great distinction through many years of public service."

"We have every confidence Mr. Libby ultimately will be vindicated," defense attorney Theodore Wells told a throng of reporters. "We believe Mr. Libby is totally innocent and that he didn't do anything wrong."

Libby was convicted of one count of obstruction, two counts of perjury and one count of lying to the FBI about how he learned Plame's identity and whom he told. Prosecutors said he learned about Plame from Cheney and others, discussed her name with reporters and, fearing prosecution, made up a story to make those discussions seem innocuous.

Libby said he told investigators his honest recollections and blamed any misstatements on a faulty memory. He was acquitted of one count of lying to the FBI about his conversation with Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper.

One juror who spoke to reporters outside court said the jury had 34 poster-size pages filled with information they distilled from the trial testimony. They discerned that Libby was told about Plame at least nine times and they didn't buy the argument that he forgot all about it.