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Judge orders Libby jailed during appeal

Story Highlights

Judge tells Libby's attorneys that they have 10 days to appeal ruling
• Judge tells court of harassing and hateful messages he has gotten over case
• Libby was convicted in March of lying about leaking a CIA agent's identity
• Libby was sentenced to 2 years in prison in early June
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A federal judge on Thursday ordered I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby to report to prison while his attorneys appeal his perjury and obstruction convictions.

Libby's attorneys asked that the order be stayed, but U.S. District Court Judge Reggie Walton denied the request and told Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff that he has 10 days to appeal the ruling.

Libby was sentenced to 2 years in prison for lying and obstructing the investigation into who revealed Valerie Plame Wilson as a CIA operative in 2003. He also was fined $250,000.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons will determine when and where Libby should be incarcerated, and he will then be allowed to report there voluntarily.

A bureau spokesman said they would solicit recommendations from Walton and U.S. marshals before deciding where to place Libby.

The White House had little comment on the ruling, issuing a statement saying, "Scooter Libby still has the right to appeal, and therefore the president will continue not to intervene in the judicial process. The president feels terribly for Scooter, his wife and their young children, and all that they're going through."

Cheney's office referred reporters to a statement he and his wife, Lynne, made last week on the day Libby was sentenced, which said the couple was "deeply saddened by the tragedy."

Asked whether President Bush -- as he leaves office -- should pardon Libby , White House spokesman Tony Snow told reporters, "Look, at this point ... what the president has said is, 'Let the legal process work itself out.' We're not talking about -- we're just not engaging in that right now."

CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin called the ruling "a very dramatic and, to me, surprising decision."

"Many white collar defendants get bail pending appeal," he said, citing Martha Stewart and some insider traders as examples.

"Judge Walton has had it with Scooter Libby," who, Toobin said, also got a stiff sentence for his crimes in the first place. "This is going to put President Bush in a very difficult position regarding the question of a pardon."

Libby's attorneys were trying to make a case that Libby shouldn't have to go to jail because special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald didn't have the authority to charge him.

Defense attorney Lawrence Robbins suggested Fitzgerald had no standing to investigate and prosecute the case, because a letter appointing him as special counsel exempted him from the internal policies and procedures of the Department of Justice.

In addition, the defense argued Fitzgerald was not accountable to anyone.

"I don't blame Mr. Fitzgerald," Robbins said. "He thought he had all this power. He probably did. And that's what's wrong here, not what's right."

Walton disagreed. At issue, he replied, was a possible conflict of interest.

"Everyone is accountable, and if you work in the White House, and if it's perceived that somehow (you're) linked at the hip, the American public would have serious questions about the fairness of any investigation of a high-level official conducted by the attorney general," the judge said.

Libby is the first sitting White House official to be indicted in 130 years. He resigned after he was indicted in October 2005.

At the beginning of Thursday's hearing, Walton told the court he had received "harassing" and "hateful" messages.

"In the interest of full disclosure, I have received a number of harassing, angry and mean-spirited phone calls and messages. Some wishing bad things on me and my family," the judge said. "Those types of things will have no impact."

"I initially threw them away, but then there were more, some that were more hateful," Walton said. "They are being kept."

Libby was found guilty of lying to investigators about what he told reporters about Plame Wilson, whose identity as a CIA operative was leaked to the media.

Plame Wilson's name became public when Robert Novak named her in his column on July 14, 2003. Her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, had openly questioned the Bush administration's basis for invading Iraq.

Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage has admitted he disclosed the information to a reporter. Novak pointed to another "senior administration official" -- Bush political adviser Karl Rove -- as the second source for his column.

No one has been charged with leaking classified information in the case, but a jury found Libby guilty of trying to deceive investigators and a grand jury as to what went on.

After the June 5 sentencing, Walton said he was inclined to jail Libby after the defense laid out its proposed appeal, but the judge told attorneys he was open to changing his mind.


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I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby arrives at the courthouse on Thursday for his hearing.

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