Jail sentence for ex-Cheney aide

A US judge has sentenced former key White House official Lewis “Scooter” Libby to 30 months in prison. He remains free pending an appeal hearing.

Libby was found guilty of obstruction of justice and perjury in March over the investigation into the unmasking of CIA officer Valerie Plame.

Libby was the former chief of staff to Vice-President Dick Cheney.

Nobody has ever been charged with the offence of leaking the name of Ms Plame whose husband criticised the Iraq war.

President George W Bush feels “terrible for the family, especially for his wife and kids,” said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino.

‘The truth matters’

Vice-President Cheney said his former aide’s prison sentence was a tragedy.

“Scooter is also a friend, and on a personal level [my wife] Lynne and I remain deeply saddened by this tragedy,” he said in statement.

US District Judge Reggie B Walton said the evidence overwhelmingly proved Libby’s guilt.

“People who occupy these types of positions, where they have the welfare and security of [the] nation in their hands, have a special obligation to not do anything that might create a problem,” Judge Walton said in delivering the sentence.

Judge Walton also fined Libby $250,000 (£125,000) and placed him on probation for two years following his release from prison.

Mr Libby remains free pending a hearing scheduled for next week on his appeal.

There has been speculation that President Bush might pardon Libby but the White House said it would not intervene in the case given that the appeals process was still under way.

Mr Libby is the highest-ranking White House official convicted in a government scandal since the Iran-Contra affair in the mid-1980s, when Ronald Reagan was president.

Mr Libby has always maintained his innocence.

“It is respectfully my hope that the court will consider, along with the jury verdict, my whole life,” Mr Libby said in a brief final appeal to the judge.

Although Mr Libby had faced a maximum of 25 years in prison, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald had asked for a three year sentence.

“We need to make the statement that the truth matters ever so much,” said Mr Fitzgerald.

Ms Plame’s identity as a CIA agent in was revealed in 2003 after her husband - a former ambassador - openly criticised the Bush administration’s case for war with Iraq.

Libby was convicted of lying to FBI investigators and the grand jury about how and when he learned that Valerie Plame was a CIA officer, and lying about disclosing classified information to reporters.

Libby was found guilty of lying to the FBI and a grand jury over revelations about CIA agent Valerie Plame’s identity
Critics said the White House leaked Ms Plame’s identity to undermine her husband, ex-ambassador Joseph Wilson
He had publicly cast doubt on the Bush administration’s case for war in Iraq
The alleged cover-up, rather than the leak itself, was the subject of the Libby trial