Hilton and Libby: A tale of two convicts

By Eric Naing

One is Paris Hilton, a hard-partying socialite and heiress. The other is I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Cheney. Both have suffered intense media scrutiny and both now face time in prison. Are these two individuals truly criminals or has our justice system condemned two barely-felonious people solely to satisfy our out-of-control lust for law and order?

For the lucky few who somehow managed to escape the round-the-clock media bombardment, Paris Hilton was sentenced to 45 days in jail for a probation violation stemming from two incidents of driving with a license that was suspended from a previous DUI conviction. But after serving only three days of her sentence, Ms. Hilton was reassigned to serve the rest of her term under house arrest instead of in jail. Furious that the Los Angeles County Sheriff overruled his sentencing, Judge Michael Sauer ordered Hilton back to jail to finish out the rest of her 45-day sentence.

Libby’s story on the other hand goes all the way back to the dawn of the 2003 Iraq invasion. At the request of the CIA, Joseph Wilson, a diplomat and former ambassador with a background in African affairs, traveled to Niger in early 2002 to investigate claims that Saddam Hussein had tried to purchase uranium from the African nation. Despite Wilson’s investigation turning up nothing and the CIA and the International Atomic Energy Agency’s doubts toward the legitimacy of the claim, the Niger story was used by the Bush administration to build a case for invading Iraq.

In July 2003, Joseph Wilson wrote the op-ed “What I Didn’t Find in Africa” in the New York Times. In an attempt to possibly intimidate or discredit Joseph Wilson, individuals in the Bush administration (including Libby) start telling the press that Wilson’s wife Valerie Plame was a covert CIA agent, effectively blowing her cover and ending her career. An investigation of the CIA leak scandal is later launched in which Scooter Libby is caught telling the FBI that he learned of Plame’s identity from journalist Tim Russert when he actually was first notified by Vice President Cheney. Subsequently, Libby was found guilty of perjury, obstruction of justice and of lying to federal investigators and sentenced to 30 months in prison.

One was caught driving under the influence and violated her probation. The other leaked the identity of a covert CIA agent and lied to the feds about it. Both were given harsh prison sentences but do they deserve them? If you listen to their friends, both individuals barely committed crimes and should not have to serve any jail time because of their positive impact on humanity itself.

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An online petition at ipetitions.com signed by over 32,000 people urged Governor Schwarzenegger to pardon Paris Hilton because she “provides beauty and excitement to (most of) our otherwise mundane lives.” In what amounts to the DC beltway version of ipetitions.com, letters poured in from famous conservatives such as Donald Rumsfeld, Henry Kissinger and Doug Feith begging the judge to reduce Libby’s sentence because of his status as a truly decent human being.

Both attempts have since failed, leading to wildly disparate views on what constitutes justice. Claiming that a 30-month jail sentence was far too harsh, a movement has begun in DC circles calling for President Bush to pardon Scooter Libby who is in the process of appealing his sentence. Oddly enough, the very conservatives who impeached President Clinton for obstruction of justice and perjury now claim that Scooter Libby, who was convicted of the very same things, should be spared punishment.

On the other end of the country in California, Paris Hilton has taken the opposite route telling Barbara Walters, “I’ve dropped my appeal. I don’t want to cause any more problems.”

In the end who would have thought that Paris Hilton would have a better understanding of the law and of responsibility than the likes of Rumsfeld, Kissinger and the other conservatives calling for Bush to pardon Libby?