December 10, 2007

Libby Will End Appeals

In a striking retreat, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby will not pursue any appeals of his conviction for obstruction of justice and perjury. His attorney says that the "burden ... of complete vindication" proved too much for Lewis and his family. However, given the short period of time since his conviction and sentence commutation, it appears more that Lewis doesn't believe he can achieve any kind of vindication, at least not through the courts:

Former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby is dropping his appeal in the CIA leak case, his attorney said Monday.

Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, was convicted of perjury and obstruction for lying about his conversations with reporters about outed CIA operative Valerie Plame.

"We remain firmly convinced of Mr. Libby's innocence," attorney Theodore Wells said. "However, the realities were, that after five years of government service by Mr. Libby and several years of defending against this case, the burden on Mr. Libby and his young family of continuing to pursue his complete vindication are too great to ask them to bear."

President Bush commuted Libby's 30-month jail sentence in July. Libby paid a $250,000 fine and must serve two years' probation. Libby remains a convicted felon, but Bush could issue a full pardon as his administration winds down.

The decision may also come from a look at the calendar. Even if the appeal succeeded -- an unlikely outcome -- it would mean a new trial for Libby. That disposes of the presidential commutation, meaning a subsequent conviction would mean a prison sentence. Unless Fred Thompson, an unabashed supporter of Libby, won the White House, he could not count on another commutation. Indeed, if the case moved back again to trial, he probably could not count on a pardon, either.

This will take some wind out of the sails for Libby supporters, Thompson included. The commutation came from George Bush as a means to allow Libby to remain free while appealing his conviction. His supporters claimed that the commutation was not the end Libby or they sought, but an intermediate step to keep an innocent man from the injustice of imprisonment. They raised funds for his legal costs in part to help him meet that burden of complete vindication.

Now Libby has chosen not to pursue vindication at all. A felony conviction with no prison time apparently suffices for him. Will that change of heart produce a similar shift in opinion about Libby and his conviction for obstruction and perjury? Will people see this as a tacit admission of guilt? If Libby chooses not to pursue vindication, it certainly appears that it holds little value to him -- certainly not the attitude of a wrongly-convicted public servant, especially given the extremely short period of time it took to reach that decision.


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