Scooter Libby Granted Clemency
WHEREAS Lewis Libby was convicted in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in the case United States v. Libby, Crim. No. 05-394 (RBW), for which a sentence of 30 months’ imprisonment, 2 years’ supervised release, a fine of $250,000, and a special assessment of $400 was imposed on June 22, 2007;
NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, pursuant to my powers under Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution, do hereby commute the prison terms imposed by the sentence upon the said Lewis Libby to expire immediately, leaving intact and in effect the two-year term of supervised release, with all its conditions, and all other components of the sentence.
IN WITNESS THEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this second day of July, in the year of our Lord two thousand and seven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-first.
GEORGE W. BUSH
Update: Gene Healy provides a partial list of people also deserving of some clemency.
- Marsha Cunningham
Like Kemba Smith, Cunningham, who was arrested in 1997, had no prior offenses. Nor was there any evidence that she had ever participated in a drug deal.
Yet when police found powder and crack cocaine in the Dallas apartment that Cunningham shared with her boyfriend, and her boyfriend was caught with crack while driving her car, federal mandatory minimums kicked in. Now, Cunningham is serving 15 years in prison.
- Dane Yirkovsky
Yirkovsky is serving a 15-year sentence for possession of a single .22-caliber bullet.
In December 1998 he found this bullet while doing remodeling work for a friend who was giving him a place to stay in exchange for the work. Yirkovsky put the bullet in a box in his bedroom. Later that month, the police found the bullet while searching Yirkovsky’s room after a call from his former girlfriend, who claimed he had some of her possessions. Because of Yirkovsky’s prior convictions for burglary, federal prosecutors charged him under the Armed Career Criminal Act, although he had not threatened anyone and did not have a gun.
- Weldon Angelos
A year ago this week, 24-year-old Angelos was sentenced to 55 years in prison for selling two small bags of marijuana to a police informant. During the transaction, Angelos was carrying a pistol in an ankle holster, although he did not threaten anyone with the weapon. Nonetheless, the law imposed a severe mandatory minimum for gun possession during a drug deal.
In sentencing Angelos, U.S. District Judge Paul Cassell of Utah, a conservative Republican appointed by President Bush, also ran through the maximum penalties for hijacking an airplane (25 years), a terrorist bombing intending to kill a bystander (20 years), and kidnapping (13 years). The judge noted that just two hours earlier, he had imposed a sentence of 22 years in a case where a man beat a senior citizen to death with a log.
“Is there a rational basis,” Cassell asked, “for giving Mr. Angelos more time than the hijacker, the murderer, the rapist?” Cassell called the 55-year sentence “unjust, cruel, and even irrational” but said that the law left him “no choice.”
Of course, President Bush need not free Angelos immediately—a crime was committed—but he has the power to reduce Angelos’ sentence. Surely one mistake is a poor justification for taking away most of a young father’s life.
- Robert Blandford, Diane Huang, David McNab, and Abner Schoenwetter
Three American seafood dealers and one Honduran lobster-fleet owner are currently doing hard time for importing lobster tails that were the wrong size and that were packaged in clear plastic bags rather than in cardboard boxes. They ran afoul of the Lacey Act, a federal statute that makes it a crime to import fish or wildlife taken “in violation of any foreign law.”
The U.S. government argued that they had broken Honduran law because some of the lobster tails—3 percent, to be exact—were less than five and a half inches long, and because a Honduran regulation required that the lobster tails be packed in boxes. Yet Honduran officials testified that no laws had been violated.
Nonetheless, Blandford, McNab (the Honduran national), and Schoenwetter, three small-business men with no previous criminal records, were sentenced in 2001 to eight-year terms. Their “partner in crime,” Huang, got off easy: two years’ incarceration for the mother of two young children.
55 years for selling pot to an undercover police officer while carrying a pistol in an ankel holster? Geez is that over the top. Kill a man you go to jail for less time. Rape a woman and you go to jail for less time. Commit a terrorist act and you’ll go to jail for less time. But sell some dope while carrying a pistol, why lock ’em up and throw away the key!
Update II: More from President Bush here.
I respect the jury’s verdict. But I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive. Therefore, I am commuting the portion of Mr. Libby’s sentence that required him to spend thirty months in prison.
Okay, but what about 55 years for selling pot while carrying a pistol? Is that a crime worse than murder or kidnapping? And what about the lobster crime, eight years? Based on the lobster crime punishment Libby should be executed by firing squad. And the single .22 calibre bullet in a box (with no gun)? Talk about ridiculous.