Washington: Lewis “Scooter” Libby, a former top aide to US Vice President Dick Cheney, was convicted on 6 March of four counts of obstructing justice, lying and perjury during an investigation tied to the Iraq war.
Libby, whose attorneys promptly said he would seek a new trial, was acquitted on one count of lying to the FBI in the probe surrounding who leaked the identity of a CIA analyst in 2003.
He faces a maximum of 25 years in prison. Defense attorney Theodore Wells said if Libby was denied a new trial, he would appeal the conviction.
The jury’s overwhelming verdict came on the 10th day of deliberations and was hailed by some Democrats as an appropriate rejection of the Bush’s administration’s case for the four-year Iraq war.
Critics of President George W. Bush had seized on the Libby trial as an example of the heavy-handed way the White House operated.
“The testimony unmistakably revealed at the highest levels of the Bush administration a callous disregard in handling sensitive national security information and a disposition to smear critics of the war in Iraq,” said House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“It’s about time someone in the Bush administration has been held accountable for the campaign to manipulate intelligence and discredit war critics,” added Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid.
Libby was found guilty of the most serious of the charges, obstructing an investigation into who leaked the identity of Valerie Plame after her husband accused the Bush administration of manipulating intelligence to build its case for war.
The jury of seven women and four men also determined he lied to the FBI and committed perjury in testimony before a grand jury.
Bush was in the Oval Office when he was informed the jury had reached a verdict and watched the decision being read on television, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.
“He said that he respected the jury’s verdict. He said he was saddened for Scooter Libby and his family,” Perino said, declining to comment further and refusing to speculate on the possibility of a presidential pardon.
Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said the CIA leak investigation was now inactive.
“I do not expect to file any additional charges,” he said. “We’re all going back to our day jobs.”
Libby’s attorneys argued during the trial that he could not accurately recall conversations about Plame when he was interviewed months later.
“We believe, as we said at the time of his indictment, that he is totally innocent, totally innocent and that he did not do anything wrong,” Wells told reporters. “And we intend to keep fighting to establish his innocence.”
Nobody has been charged with intentionally identifying Plame, the wife of former ambassador Joseph Wilson.
The CIA leak case erupted after Wilson accused the administration of leaking his wife’s identity to punish him for writing in the New York Times that the Bush administration twisted intelligence about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction in the run-up to the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003.