The Washington Times editorialists think that Scooter Libby is getting off too easy:
We also agree that the 30-month sentence ordered by U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton – a Reagan and Bush appointee – is harsh. It exceeds the 15-21 month guidelines for first-time offenders. A first-time offender who is no danger to the community with an admirable record of public service deserves the lower range, and for that reason the unusually long sentence was unjust.
But none of this exonerates the commutation. Perjury is a serious crime…
Had Mr. Bush reduced Libby’s sentence to 15 months, we might have been able to support the decision. Alas, he did not.
A couple of points: This is a bit of an over-simplification of the federal sentencing guidelines (which, granted, are almost too complicated to explain without oversimplifying). Walton’s sentence was excessive, but not merely because it is unambiguously outside the guidelines; they can be adjusted up or down based on various factors, some of which are rather subjective (e.g. “acceptance of responsibility”). And anyway, since U.S. v. Booker in 2005, the guidelines have been non-mandatory. That’s a good thing; mechanistic formulae are no substitute for human judgment.
Ann Redington, who was on the jury that convicted Libby, doesn’t think he deserves jail time. And let’s not forget that (as I keep noting) Libby might well have been convicted on fewer counts if Walton had allowed Redington and her fellow jurors to hear some of the evidence that he excluded. I’ve thought since I first read the indictment that the obstruction charge was the only part of Fitzgerald’s case that was particularly strong; one count of obstruction would yield less jail time under the guidelines, and while 15 months is within the range of possibilities it isn’t at the bottom of it. Reasonable people can disagree on what’s fair, but it’s just too facile to argue that the sentencing guidelines automatically tell us what the “correct” sentence would be.