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It's good to be King

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With the onset of another episode in administration malfeasance, Bush chose the site of a previous scandal to answer questions regarding his commutation of Libby's prison sentence. When asked about his decision, our Dissembler-in-Chief told reporters, "I had to make a very difficult decision. I weighed this decision carefully. I thought that the jury verdict should stand. I felt the punishment was severe. So I made a decision that would commute his sentence but leave in place a serious fine and probation. As to the future, I, you know, rule nothing in and nothing out.

If Bush truly believes that the jury verdict should stand, then how could he possibly fail to rule out a pardon? It seems like only yesterday that Bush's Attorney General was arguing passionately for stiffer minimum sentencing guidelines:


For victims, another key aspect of any fair and equitable criminal justice system is to ensure that those convicted of crimes serve tough and fair sentences. And since 1987, we have had a sentencing system for federal offenses that responded to this demand - and has helped to achieve the lowest crime rates in a generation. But it is inevitable over time that, with so many different individual judges involved, exercising their own individual discretion, in so many different jurisdictions, shorter sentences and disparities among sentences will occur under a system of advisory guidelines.

The DOJ under both Ashcroft and Gonzales have been pushing for stiffer sentencing from the beginning. Specifically, the call has been to simultaneously remove a judge's discretion to factor mitigating circumstances into sentencing while also removing the barrier of maximum terms by relegating them to mere guidelines. In other words, there would no longer be anything preventing a judge from issuing a 30-year prison terms for a crime with a 5-10 year guideline.

So I ask you to consider the following two cases: The first is Victor Rita, a man who got snagged in a criminal investigation involving unregistered sale of machine gun parts. Rita was never convicted of the original crime, though he was indicted and found guilty on five felony counts of perjury and obstruction of justice. Rita, a 24 year Marine veteran who served in two wars, received over 35 medals and awards, and is now an elderly man in poor health, is currently serving a 33 month prison sentence.

Sound familiar? I. Scooter Libby was also caught up in a criminal investigation and, while not yet indicted for the original crime (Tony Snow is, to date, the only member of the administration to have even, albeit facetiously, apologized for it), was convicted on 4 out of 5 felony counts of perjury and obstruction of justice. Libby, who was admittedly involved in a scandal which caused immeasurable and irreparable harm to the security of the entire country, was sentenced to 30 months in prison - a term later commuted by the President of the United States.

Two men, both convicted of nearly identical charges, both with similar sentences. Yet the former, whose crimes were no doubt horrific yet finite in scope, is serving time while the latter, whose involvement in the Valarie Plame leak obliterated clandestine operations against groups actively hostile to US interests, benefits from his personal relationship to the White House.

Besides once again bathing in the stench of cronyism, George W. Bush has, with the stroke of his pen, caused unforeseeable harm to the future of this country. For years now, the Bush administration has dismissed critics who complain about inflated sentencing guidelines as well as the ability for courts to consider factors not proven to the jury while ignoring a defendant's positive contributions and the burden imprisonment would pose on the families. Pish-pash, says King George the W, unless of course the defendant happens to be a loyal courtesan.

According to Law Professor, Ellen Podger, we can expect to see the courts inundated with the Libby Motion from defense lawyers expecting their clients to get similar treatment:


The motion will likely include a comparison to the client's circumstances with that of Libby. It will probably also contain language from the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines that speaks to a basic policy consideration of the guidelines being to obtain "reasonable uniformity in sentencing by narrowing the wide disparity in sentences imposed for similar criminal conduct." And the judges, what will they do with these motions? The activist ones - might follow the activist executive and say - yes this is grounds for departure.

Once again, the administration evades even the faintest glimmer of accountability and, in the process, metes out untold damage in its wake. And we can all take this opportunity to remind ourselves of the immortal words of Mel Brooks - It's good to be King.

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Dr. Daverth is an International Relations scholar who writes extensively on global security and postmodern political theory. His daily rants can be found at The Hindsight Factor
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