Bush spares Libby from serving 2½ years in jail

U.S. President George W. Bush commuted Lewis (Scooter) Libby's prison sentence, sparing the former aide from serving 2½ years for his role in the CIA leak case.

U.S. President George W. Bushcommuted part of Lewis (Scooter) Libby's sentence on Monday, sparingthe formerWhite House aide fromserving 2½ years in jailfor his role in theCIA leak case.

"I respect the jury's verdict, but I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive," Bush said in a statement issued Monday.

"Therefore, I am commuting the portion of Mr. Libby's sentence that required him to spend 30 months in prison."

His move angered many Democrats, as well as the special prosecutor involved in the case.

BushsaidLibby will still have to pay a$250,000 US fine and serve two years probation.

"My decision to commute his prison sentence leaves in place a harsh punishment for Mr. Libby," Bush said.

He noted that Libby's wife and young children have "suffered immensely" and Libby's reputation as a public servant and former lawyer has been "forever damaged."

"The consequences of his felony conviction on his former life as a lawyer, public servant and private citizen will be long-lasting," Bush said.

Bush's move came five hours after a U.S. federal appeals panel ruled Libby could not delay his prison term.

Libbywas the highest-ranking White House official convicted in a government scandal since the Iran-Contra affair two decades ago.

He was convicted in March of lying about what he told reporters regarding CIA operative Valerie Plame, whose identity was leaked in 2003 after her husband Joseph Wilson criticized the Bush administration's Iraq war policies.

Libby was not charged with the leak itself — no one has been charged with leaking Plame's name. He was charged with lying to authorities investigating the leak and obstructing justice.

The U.S. constitution gives the president the power of clemency to be used when deemed warranted. Bush said he believes clemency is appropriate in Libby's case.

Prosecutor denies sentence was excessive

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald disputed Bush's claim that the prison term was excessive, stating that Libby was sentenced under the same laws as other criminals.

"It is fundamental to the rule of law that all citizens stand before the
bar of justice as equals," he said Monday.

Democrats did not hesitate to condemn Bush's decision. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, said the move shows Bush "condones criminal conduct."

Harry Reid, the Democratic Senate majority leader from Nevada, saidBush's administrationhas lost all accountability.

"Libby's conviction was the one faint glimmer of accountability for White House efforts to manipulate intelligence and silence critics of the Iraq war," Reid said.

"Now, even that small bit of justice has been undone."

But Libby's supporters celebrated the president's decision.

"President Bush did the right thing today in commuting the prison term for Scooter Libby," House Republican whip Roy Blunt, of Missouri, said Monday.

Libby did not comment Monday, but hislawyer, Theodore Wells, said in a statement that the Libby family was grateful for Bush's action and continued to believe in his innocence.

With files from the Associated Press