The Associated Press says that those close to the case are somewhat puzzled as to what will happen next in the Libby case, since we’re now in unchartered waters. The crux of the argument is that this type of situation- a commutation of sentence to supervised release without at least one day of time served- has never has never happened before. After all, how can you do a “supervised release” if the person in question was never held in the first place? There’s nothing to “release” him from.
Bush eliminated Libby’s 2 1/2-year prison term and left in place his two years of supervised release. But supervised release â€” a form of probation â€” is only available to people who have served prison time. Without prison, it’s unclear what happens next.
U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton posed the question to Libby’s attorneys and to Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald: Does this mean Libby won’t actually be required to serve supervised release? Should he just have to report to probation officials as if he spent time in prison?
The law, Walton said in court documents, “does not appear to contemplate a situation in which a defendant may be placed under supervised release without first completing a term of incarceration.”
For now, it appears Libby is in legal limbo. Walton gave both sides until Monday to respond.
Tony Snow has claimed time after time over the past day that Bush spent “weeks” consulting with his top aides/legal experts to figure out the best solution of what to do about Libby. And putting Libby in an unprecedented “legal limbo” was the best they could come up with? Here’s Snow on Tuesday:
I will simply tell you that the President, after long consideration, weeks and weeks of consideration, came to the conclusion that 30 months in jail was excessive, and that he is comfortable with the punishment, which is still quite severe, of $250,000, a felony conviction, and two years of probation.
The President spent weeks and weeks consulting with senior members of this White House about the proper way to proceed, and they looked at a whole lot of options, and they spent a lot of time talking through the options and doing some very detailed legal analysis.
Update: For more on the legal “can of worms” Bush opened with his Libby commutation, see this.