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February 9, 2007

Revving up for Rita: harsh treatment for a lesser Libby

In this recent post, I noted that the specifics of Claiborne and Rita are quite interesting and nuanced, and I provided a quick account of facets of Mario Claiborne sentencing fortunes.  In this post, I wish to note intriguing aspects of Victor Rita's case — which has some parallels to the on-going trial of Lewis Libby.

1.  The nature of Victor's crime.  Like Lewis Libby, Victor Rita got caught up in a criminal investigation and ultimately was indicted on five felony counts based on allegations that he lied while giving grand jury testimony.  And, like Libby, Victor Rita asserted his innocence and exercised his right to a jury trial.  (Victor was convicted of all counts at trial; Libby's trial fate is still to be determined, of course.)

2.  The impact of a guideline cross-reference.  Though lying to government investigators is surely a crime to be taken seriously, Martha Stewart only faced a guideline sentence of 10 months after her conviction on a similar charge.  In Victor's case, his guideline range was 33 to 41 months because of the operation of cross-reference provisions in the guidelines — provisions which essentially held him accountable for crimes beyond those which were the basis for his jury conviction.

3.  The (in)consequence of a remarkable personal history.  As first noted here, 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 medals and awards.  Also, he is an elderly gentleman who suffers serious health problems.  None of these factors played any role in the calculation of his guideline sentencing range, and the imposition of a within-guideline sentence indicates these factors had little or no impact at all at Victor's sentencing.  (To spotlight another Lewis Libby parallel, I would expect Libby 's lawyers to stress his government service at sentencing if he gets convicted.)

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February 9, 2007 at 08:02 AM | Permalink

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Comments

Your third parallel is rather tenuous.

There is a special place in our hearts for the soldiers who put their lives at risk, and serve courageously in the military. Victor Rita did this for 24 years.

There is nothing like that kind of distinction in Scooter Libby's government service. Indeed, the prosecution will probably argue that someone placed in a position of high trust, as Libby was, should be held to a higher standard. Should he be convicted, his government service will work against him, not for him.

Posted by: Marc Shepherd | Feb 9, 2007 5:40:00 PM

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