Monday, June 11, 2007

Special pleading

William Otis writing in Sunday's Washington Post suggests that Scooter Libby's sentence of 30 months and $250,000 is excessive and should be commuted. It's only a "process crime" says he, meaning that Libby did nothing illegal until after the government initiated its investigation. That's the nature of Perjury.

Otis is a former federal prosecutor and member of the Attorney General's Advisory Committee on Sentencing Guidelines and special counsel for the first President Bush, so I have at least give the man some credit for not talking off the top of his head, but how this recommendation will fly in a country obsessed with "zero tolerance" and trying children as adults and giving draconian sentences for minor and consensual crimes, I do not know. I do however recall the protracted, expensive and divisive effort to prosecute Bill Clinton for lying about something irrelevant to anything he was being tried for. The acts concerning which Libby committed perjury had nothing to do with sex and Otis points out that they were non-violent and not "drug related." In addition he thought he was serving his country by putting loyalty to the Bush administration above loyalty to the people and constitution of the United States. The crowning argument for commutation is that Sandy Berger, a Democrat, only got a fine for copying classified documents.

I'm not a lawyer or a Republican, so I'm a bit confused as to why 10 years for having too much marijuana is not excessive or 50, 60 or 70 years for pornography possession is not excessive when 30 months for perjury is too much. Holding government officials to a higher standard wasn't considered so terrible during the 1990's, was it? He's not what most people would think of as a criminal, says Mr. Otis, but I disagree. Our jails are filled with non-violent people who have harmed no-one. I submit that Libby supported people who have harmed the world and when Otis says that
"A partial commutation would send the message that we insist on being truthful, but in the name of a justice that still cares about individual circumstances, we will not insist on being vindictive"
I would believe him if it weren't that our mandatory sentencing policies in the US are designed not to take into account individual circumstances and vindictiveness rules to the point of killing people. About this he says nothing.

And lastly, citing an anecdote about Sandy Berger as evidence for political bias in sentencing serves as well to point out that Otis once again says nothing about the legendary capriciousness of criminal courts in handing down sentences that reflect prejudice and thirst for vengeance. His plea is not for universal and consistent justice, but to diminish Libby's offenses.

Otis may be a lawyer and thus used to pleading a case rather than arguing it logically, but if it were up to me, I would Lock up Libby and sentence Otis to being ignored.

Cross posted in The Reaction


d.K. said...

I saw Robert Novak's column today, which I refuse to link to and only read it occasionally the way it is often impossible to avert your eyes from a terrible accident. In it, he also argues that it is a no-brainer that Libby should be pardoned. He argues prosecutorial misconduct and makes no mention whatsoever that it was he (Novak) who published Valerie Plame's name which started the whole crime. The level of hypocricy continues to astound. It is absolutely unreal. And the judge in Libby's case had some wonderful thoughts on the pedigreed legal scholars who have stepped up to the plate arguing for leniency for Libby. The judge trusts these same people will now regularly file amicus briefs on behalf the many also worthy but penniless and powerless who find themselves in need of a legal boost -- presumably prostitutes and pot smokers. But I doubt the judge is holding his breath. Good post, as usual, Capt.

Capt. Fogg said...

I probably don't have what it takes to be a Republican lawyer. If you read the comments on this post at The Reaction, you'll see that people can argue right past my point without acknowledging it.

I said I didn't know how leniency would fly in this zero tolerance country and he argues that Otis didn't say he approved of harsh sentencing. Forceful reply to an argument you didn't make is sort of a hallmark of the master debater who is opposed by the facts.

And of course the Sandy Berger thing. It suits them to make it the crimes equivalent, but they are not equivalent in what resulted from them and justice must consider the result and weigh it along with the simple fact that a law was broken.

d.K. said...

I just stopped over at your other site and I have to say that you get more comments than most that have nothing to do with your original post, and are written in such a twisted, incoherent way that, after multiple readings, I'm often still left wondering what the point the commenter is trying to make is!? Sheesh.

I admire that you are able to sift through them and offer some sort of rebuttal -- I, on the otherhand, would be left speechless and unable to respond.