From the Sentencing Law and Policy blog by Douglas A. Berman, William B. Saxbe Designated Professor of Law
Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University:
July 2, 2007
What President Bush's commutation of Libby says: "I'm the sentencer ... for my pal"
Distilled to its essence, President Bush's decision to commute the imprisonment portion of Lewis Libby's sentence is a sentencing decision. The President has not formally excused Libby or changed his status as a convicted felon, and the President's statement indicates "respect" for a federal jury's determination that Libby committed numerous federal crimes. What the President apparently does not respect is the within-guideline prison term that Judge Reggie Walton concluded was "sufficient, but not greater than necessary" under federal law for Libby's numerous federal crimes.
As I noted here, many federal defendants and their attorneys have argued in many fora that guideline imprisonment levels should not be shown undue respect, but Bush's Justice Department has argued in many fora that the guidelines merit faithful allegience. It will be interesting to see if, after the President has made clear that he views the guidelines are "excessive" for one of his pals, others with sentencing power begin to give less respect to the guidelines when the fates of less connected defendants are in the balance.