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Libby Sentenced to More Than Two Years in CIA Leak Case

I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, received a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence Tuesday for lying in an investigation into the leak of a CIA agent's name. Two journalists offer their perspectives on the case's impact on the media.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Former White House aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby sentenced to 30 months in prison. Carol Leonnig of the Washington Post was in the courtroom and joins us now, as she did often during the trial itself.

    Carol, welcome back.

  • CAROL LEONNIG, The Washington Post:

    Thank you, Jim.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    What was the judge's stated reasoning for sending Libby to prison?

  • CAROL LEONNIG:

    Well, his stated reason was that, as much as he realized that there was a great public service that Scooter Libby had done for the nation by working so tirelessly and so many hours for so little remuneration in various administrations, ultimately, the judge found that the evidence was overwhelming that Scooter had deliberately lied to investigators and obstructed an important probe into the release of national security information.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    And that he thought the evidence proved the case, that he had lied about what he knew about what was going on at the time, correct?

  • CAROL LEONNIG:

    Absolutely. The judge also, you know, as you know, has a reputation as a "by the book," sort of long-ball hitter kind of judge, who is pretty hard on criminals, whether they're white-collar or violent criminals. And what he said to Scooter Libby today was that he agreed with the prosecution, that the prison sentence should be increased because of the seriousness of the investigation that Scooter Libby impeded, and also because the lies that he told forever shielded from the public the knowledge of whether those crimes were committed by Mr. Libby, the leaks, or by someone else.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    What did Libby say on his behalf in open court today?

  • CAROL LEONNIG:

    Well, you know, I've covered a lot of sentencings, and I found his comments really interesting. First of all, he was unflinching, as he was when the verdict was read, and throughout this experience he's been sort of an emotionless person.

    He said that he was very grateful to the court personnel for all their help to him while he had been in the courthouse for the last year-and-a-half. And, finally, he said he just hoped the judge would take into consideration his own life and not just the jury's verdict.

    But, again, what I found striking was that Scooter Libby never said, "I'm sorry" or "I did something wrong" or "I made a mistake and I'll never do it again." Most defendants say that, and he did not.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Would Judge Walton have expected that and wanted that, as well, do you think?

  • CAROL LEONNIG:

    I think so. I think most federal judges I've seen on the bench want to see some contrition and remorse, if only because it's an indicator that someone's acknowledged what a jury has found to be true.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Now, how do you read the judge's take on what happens next on this issue, the request from the defense to let Libby remain free while the appeal is decided?

  • CAROL LEONNIG:

    Well, it's also striking. I mean, I was talking to some legal experts today after the hearing. And the judge definitely broke away from the increasing trend in federal courts to release white-collar criminals pending their appeal and let them be free. The law sort of presumes that Scooter Libby will go to prison immediately after sentencing, but the trend has been in the other direction.

    And Judge Walton went, again, by the book and said his feeling was, "You should go to prison immediately after sentencing," but after the defense pleaded with the judge to reconsider, he said, "OK, I'll listen to you for another week, and I'll decide next week at a hearing."

  • JIM LEHRER:

    And is this solely at the discretion of the judge? Can that be appealed itself?

  • CAROL LEONNIG:

    It's at his discretion. There can be back-and-forth over it, but ultimately it's his discretion.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    OK. Carol Leonnig, again, thank you very much.

  • CAROL LEONNIG:

    Thank you, Jim.