Defendants: No Jail for Libby; Why Me?

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Updated: A former top aide to the vice president of the United States didn’t have to serve time for lying to a federal grand jury. So why should I?

That essentially is the argument being made by a Massachusetts woman, 41-year-old Joanne “Jody” Richardson. And she’s not the only one. Troy Ellerman, a lawyer in Calfornia who illegally gave grand jury information about alleged steroids use by high-profile baseball players to a reporter is also among a growing group of criminal defendants seeking leniency under the name of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, says the Associated Press.

Ellerman, 44, isn’t even trying to avoid prison entirely; he hopes to get a 15-month term, rather than the two years prosecutors are seeking, at a sentencing hearing tomorrow.

“As with Mr. Libby, Troy Ellerman is a first-time offender with years of exceptional work as an attorney in both the public and private sectors,” his lawyer, Scott Tedmon argued in a court filing. He is also, like Libby, a lawyer, Tedmon continues–but, unlike Libby, he pleaded guilty instead of demanding a jury trial. “Mr. Ellerman, unlike Lewis Libby, has done everything in his power to promote the judicial process in expediting this case to a prompt resolution.”

Richardson is fighting a six-month sentence for perjury in a grand jury investigation of her former employer, a pharmaceutical company. The federal judge in her case has already ordered her resentenced, but prosecutors are asking a state appeals court to reinstate the original jail term, reports the Boston Globe.

Richardson says she told the truth to the grand jury but was scared and confused by the questions she was asked during her testimony about alleged illegal kickbacks paid by her former employer to doctors to persuade them to prescribe certain drugs. A mother of two young children who is also helping to care for an ailing parent, she says she is angry about the apparent discrepancy between the brand of justice served up to Libby, whose 30-month sentence in the Valerie Plame spying case was recently commuted by President George W. Bush, and what happens to ordinary citizens. “People like me go to prison every day,” she tells the Globe, “and people like him don’t.”

“It remains to be seen whether there are two systems of government here, one for the friends of the president and the vice president, and the other for the powerless people,” says her lawyer, Max Stern, who is urging the government to drop its appeal of the resentencing and recommend probation.

If the prosecutors prevail on appeal, the Globe reports, there is still another alternative that may save Richardson from the slam—following in Libby’s footsteps, she will ask President Bush to commute her prison sentence.

Such “Libby motions,” while popular among defendants right now, aren’t likely to persuade a judge to accept a leniency argument, predicts Ellen Podgor, who teaches criminal law at Stetson University in St. Petersburg, Fla. “There is going to be a judge or two out there that may use it,” she tells AP.

(Hat tip to Crooks and Liars.)

(Originally posted at 2:13 p.m.)

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