July 2, 2007 / 4:37 PM / 12 years ago

Appeals court won't delay Libby prison term

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former vice presidential aide Lewis “Scooter” Libby on Monday lost his bid to delay serving his 2 1/2-year prison sentence while he appeals his conviction in the CIA leak case.

Conservatives have pressured President George W. Bush to pardon Libby before he serves any time in prison and Monday’s decision could increase that pressure. A White House spokesman said last month Bush was not going to intervene for now.

Libby, who was Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, was found guilty in March of lying, perjury and obstructing justice during an investigation into who blew the cover of a CIA analyst whose husband criticized the Iraq war.

A federal judge last month ruled Libby would have to report to prison in six to eight weeks. His lawyers then asked a U.S. appeals court to keep Libby out of prison while he appeals his conviction, a process that could take months.

The three-judge panel of the appeals court rejected Libby’s request in a one-paragraph order, ruling he has not shown that his appeal “raises a substantial question.”

The ruling was issued by all three members of the appeals court panel. Judges David Sentelle and Karen LeCraft Henderson were appointed by Republican presidents while Judge David Tatel was appointed by a Democratic president.

Libby’s lawyers said they plan to argue on appeal that the prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, was improperly appointed and that the trial judge should not have excluded witnesses and classified material Libby had hoped to use in his defense.

The former CIA analyst, Valerie Plame, has said her identity was disclosed in retaliation after her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, accused the administration of manipulating intelligence to build its case for the Iraq war.

Nobody was ever charged with blowing Plame’s cover.

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