Last month, the Supreme Court agreed with the Bush Justice Dept., ruling against Rita’s appeal for a reduced sentence based his exemplary military service.
Sen. Joe Biden:
Tony Snow said that President Bush decided to commute Scooter Libby’s two and a half year-prison sentence for perjury and obstruction of justice, because it was “excessive.”
Yet last year the Bush Administration filed a “friend-of-the-court brief” with the Supreme Court, in an attempt to uphold a lower court’s ruling that a 33-month prison sentence for Victor Rita, who was convicted of the same exact charges, perjury and obstruction of justice, was “reasonable.”
Pres. Bush cited Libby’s “years of exceptional public service” in commuting his prison sentence. But Libby is the classic Bushie chickenhawk — a neocon bureaucrat with no service record whose fingerprints are all over the worst military planning in American history.
Conversely, Victor Rita is the real deal:
Victor Rita is a very sympathetic defendant: he served 24 years in the Marine Corps, had tours of duty in Vietnam and the first Gulf war, and has received over 35 military metals and awards. Also, he is an elderly gentleman who suffers serious health problems.
The Supreme Court ruled on the case last month:
The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that criminal sentences within guidelines set by a federal commission are generally entitled to be upheld on appeal, a decision that limits legal options for defendants who feel that they have been punished too harshly.
By a vote of 8 to 1, the court held that, even though it recently ruled that the sentencing ranges set by the U.S. Sentencing Commission are no longer mandatory, judges who follow them may be presumed to have acted reasonably…
The case that the court decided yesterday, Rita v. United States, No. 06-5754, was meant to help define “advisory.”
Victor Rita, convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice, asked for a lighter sentence based in part on his past military service. But the judge gave him 33 months, as suggested by the guidelines. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, based in Richmond, upheld the sentence, saying that penalties within the guidelines are “presumptively reasonable.”
It is customary in the pardoning process for the president to contact the Justice Dept. for input. But the White House is adamant that Bush did not speak to anyone at Justice about the Libby pardon. If he had run it past them, it’s possible he could have avoided what appears to be a spectacular blunder.