The judge who sentenced former White House aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby to 30 months in prison, only to see the sentence commuted by President Bush, said he was “perplexed” by the act of clemency, reports the Los Angeles Times. U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton took issue with Bush’s statement that the sentence ordered for Libby was “excessive.” Walton said he followed legal precedents as well as a strict interpretation of federal sentencing guidelines that has been backed by Bush’s own administration.
The 30-month sentence for Libby, Walton observed, was at the low end of federal sentencing guidelines. The Bush administration and the Justice Department have been strong proponents of those guidelines for judges, which are supposed to ensure that defendants in federal cases receive similar sentences for the same crimes. “Indeed, only recently the president’s attorney general called for the passage of legislation to ‘restore the binding nature of the sentencing guidelines so that the bottom of the recommended sentencing range would be a minimum for judges, not merely a suggestion,'” Walton wrote. He questioned whether Bush had the constitutional power to order supervised release without sending Libby to jail. The form of probation, according to the law, is supposed to be reserved for after someone has served time.