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Suspected Hamas Operative References Libby Precedent To Seek Reduced Jail Time

The New York times reported yesterday that Scooter Libby’s commutation has been a “gift” for defense attorneys, with many using the so-called “Libby motion” to argue, “My client should have got what Libby got, and here’s why.” Subsequently, judges may have “reason to lighten sentences and undermining the goal of a more uniform justice system.”

The New York Sun reports today that an “alleged Hamas operative is likely to be among the first criminal defendents to try to capitalize on President Bush’s commutation.” Mohammad Salah is scheduled to be sentenced next week on obstruction of justice charges, with a 22 year maximum sentence. “What the president said about Mr. Libby applies in spades to the case of Mohammed Salah,” said defense attorney Michael Deutsch.

Deutsch plans to use several of Bush’s arguments to argue for reducing the prison sentence for Salah to probation:

When Mr. Bush commuted that prison sentence on Monday, he made particular note of the alleged unfairness in how Libby’s sentence was calculated. “Critics say the punishment does not fit the crime: Mr. Libby was a first-time offender with years of exceptional public service and was handed a harsh sentence based in part on allegations never presented to the jury,” the president wrote. […]

“It applies to an even greater extent in Mr. Salah’s case,” Mr. Deutsch said. “In our case, these allegations were presented to a jury and he was acquitted.”

Mr. Deutsch also noted that while Libby was convicted of lying to the FBI and a grand jury in a criminal investigation, the lies Salah was convicted of telling were part of his defense to a civil case brought by the family of a victim of a Hamas-sponsored bombing.

The Salah case is one of many that may be influenced by Libby’s commutation. Susan James, defense attorney for former Governor Don Siegelman (D-AL), who was convicted of corruption and obstruction of justice charges, plans to argue for the “Libby treatment” for Siegelman. “[Bush] has basically come in and said the sentence is too harsh,” James said. “I’ll find some way to weave that into our argument,” James said.

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The Bush administration alleges that Hamas aides terrorist groups. Just last month, the White House stated that Hamas is a “dangerous force” that follows “the way of terror.” Salah’s use of the “Libby motion” to reduce his own sentence bolsters the fact that Libby’s commutation has undermined Bush’s own national security policies.

More at Sentencing Law and Policy.