Victor Rita was charged and convicted for the same crimes as the Scooter: perjury, obstruction of justice, making false statements to a grand jury. Rita like the Scooter had no relevant criminal prior history, served in the armed forces for over 25 years (unlike the Scooter and his bosses George and Dick- who send men to war, but never actually went when their country called them.). Rita received 35 commendations or medals for service to his country, and like the Scooter, Rita had many successful and powerful people write to the court on his behalf for a sentence that did not send him to prison. Rita was sentenced to 33 months (two months more than the Scooter) and his case reached the US Supreme Court. Rita argued that his sentence was not “reasonable”, which is the argument the Scooter is expected to make. The Supreme Court has ruled that Scooter’s lawyers can save their paper.
Writing for an 8-1 majority, Judge Breyer wrote that appellate courts may presume that a sentence within the guidelines is reasonable, although the presumption is not binding.
Rita’s sentence stands, and Scooter Libby- white powerful Republican (“hey, these sentencing guidelines can’t have been meant for me, can they?”) is in all likelihood on his way to prison in a few weeks.
Justice Stevens started off his concurrence with bigger fish to fry, noting that Booker was not unanimous but as precedent must now be accepted as settled law. (Can you say “Roe v. Wade”?) Bless Stevens for throwing the Robert’s court’s penchant for reversing those pesky liberal Supreme Court opinions of the past in the face of Roberts, Alito, Thomas, Scalia and the gang.
But the interesting issue here is the presence of all those right wing, law and order Republicans writing tearful and sorrowful letters to the sentencing Judge reminding him of Scooter Libby’s devotion to his country and family. Some expressed surprise that a first offender with little chance of recidivism would even be facing prison.
As Bruce Willis said in the original Die Hard, “Welcome to the party pal.”
First, we have no tolerance for sentencing Scooter Libby to prison to send a message that even powerful people can be sent to prison. Scooter Libby should go to prison simply because he ignored the primacy of the law, and decided to lie to investigators in a criminal case. That type of conduct needs to be punished.
However, Scooter's friends' surprise at how unfair the sentencing laws are is what is really at issue here.
You want to remedy unfairness? Change the 100:1 crack to powder ratio of the sentencing guidelines and stop sending 20 year old black kids to jail for ten year minimum mandatories for possession of 1/100th the amount of crack that it would take for a more affluent (read white middle class) man to get the same sentence for power cocaine.
We have more than 2 million Americans in prison. (China- that paragon of Human rights abuse, has 1.5 million of it’s citizens in prison.) Human Rights Watch reported in 2000
that African Americans comprised 13 percent of the national population; 30 percent of people arrested; 41 percent of people in jail; and 49 percent of those in prison
“One in three black men between the ages of 20 and 29 was either in jail or prison, or on parole or probation in 1995. One in ten black men in their twenties and early thirties is in prison or jail. Thirteen percent of the black adult male population has lost the right to vote because of felony disenfranchisement laws.”
Don't some of those men have families? Aren't some of those men first offenders?
Something is wrong in our country, and it is not the liberalness of sentencing Judges.
What we are saying is that the wealthy elite of the this country expressed little surprise or outrage as we threw record numbers of Americans in prison, until one of their own was sentenced to prison.
Don’t despair for Scooter- since it was a federal case, he will not be sent to one of the hundreds of hell holes that comprise the state prison systems around this country. Maybe if Mr. Libby was sent to some prison where the guards bet on inmate fights and he was subject to daily abuse as tens of thousands of other prisoners in state prisons are, then maybe- if and when he emerged alive from his 31 months, there would be a real discussion of the state of prisons in this country.
Until then, Scooter can go to a minimum security camp, write his book, mow the lawn, get into shape, while his elite friends “tsk tsk” the mean Judge before raising a hundred thousand for the next politician who wins office on the “get tough on crime” platform.
See You In Court.
Just as an aside: How many prosecutors or Judges have ever visited a Florida medium security prison? Just wondering.