Thursday, March 08, 2007

Don't Hold Your Breath For A Final Outcome In Libby Case

No surprise here, the wheels of justice turn slowly for the rich and well connected in the USA.

As I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's attorneys began mapping his appeals yesterday, legal experts predicted that Vice President Cheney's former top aide has an excellent chance of avoiding prison time for his perjury convictions until late 2008, perhaps until after the presidential election.

Libby was convicted Tuesday of four felony counts of perjury, making false statements and obstruction of justice. He faces a likely prison term of 1 1/2 to three years when he is sentenced June 5 for concealing his role in the leak of undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity to the news media.

But if Reggie B. Walton, the presiding federal judge, allows Libby to put off reporting to prison while he appeals his conviction, as expected, it could take until January 2009 for Libby's lawyers to exhaust his appeals, which could go all the way to the Supreme Court. ...

Lawyers and legal experts expect Walton to sentence Libby to at least some prison time. But assuming Libby takes his conviction to the U.S. Court of Appeals, a three-judge panel could issue a decision as early as June or July of 2008. If Libby lost that appeal, he could ask for a rehearing or for the full appellate court to consider his case. That decision could take three months, and if he were turned down, Libby could petition the Supreme Court to hear his case.

And on the matter of the near certainty -- either sooner or later -- of a presidential pardon for Libby, it all depends on what happens at his sentencing hearing on June 5:

(I)f Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald insists that Libby begin serving his sentence right away and Walton agrees, it could force the question sooner. "Then the issue could ripen very fast," said Bradford A. Berenson, a former Bush White House lawyer, who said he expects a debate within the White House about what to do.

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