Libby prison sentence delay denied
Judge was threatened following sentencing


WASHINGTON - A federal judge said Thursday he will not delay a 2 1/2-year prison sentence for I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, a ruling that could send the former White House aide to prison within weeks.

U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton's decision will send Libby's attorneys rushing to an appeals court to block the sentence and could force President Bush to consider calls from Libby's supporters to pardon the former aide.

No date was set for Libby to report to prison but it's expected to be within six to eight weeks. That will be left up to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, which will also select a facility.

Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, was convicted in March of lying to investigators and obstructing Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's inquiry into the 2003 leak of a CIA operative's identity.

Judicial threats
Earlier today the federal judge who oversaw I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby’s CIA leak trial said he received threatening letters and phone calls after sentencing the former White House aide to prison.

“I received a number of angry, harassing mean-spirited phone calls and letters,” U.S. District Judge said. “Some of those were wishing bad things on me and my family.”

Walton made the remarks as he opened the hearing into whether to delay Libby’s 2 1/2-year sentence. He said he was holding the letters in case something happened, but said they would have no effect on Thursday’s decision.

Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, argues that he shouldn’t have to report to prison until his appeals have run out.

Walton had said he was not inclined to grant that request. Regardless of Thursday's ruling, it is unlikely Libby would be taken away in handcuffs. Rather, it would lead to more maneuvering in Libby’s legal fight.

Appeals bid ready
Libby’s newly formed appellate team — Lawrence S. Robbins and Mark Stancil — had said if Libby loses Thursday, they will ask an appeals court for an emergency order delaying the sentence. Because one of the issues in the appeal is whether Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald had the authority to charge Libby, defense lawyers also could ask the Supreme Court to step in.

The pardon question
Libby’s supporters have called for President Bush to wipe away Libby’s convictions. Bush publicly has sidestepped pardon questions, saying he wants to let the legal case play out.

If Bush were to decide to issue a pardon, a delay would give him more flexibility to pick a time that makes the most political sense.

Bush’s father pardoned former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and five others in the Iran-Contra arms and money affair on Christmas Eve 1992.

President Clinton pardoned more than 100 people on his way out the White House door, including former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros and Whitewater scandal figure Susan McDougal.

After a monthlong trial, jurors found in March that Libby lied to investigators about how he learned that Valerie Plame, the wife of an outspoken war critic, worked for the CIA, and whom he told.