Attorneys for I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby are preparing a last-ditch effort to delay the former White House aide's 2 1/2-year prison sentence.

Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, was sentenced Tuesday for lying and obstructing the CIA leak investigation. He became the highest-ranking White House official sentenced to prison since the Iran-Contra affair.

He requested leniency but a federal judge said he would not reward someone who hindered the investigation into the exposure of a CIA operative, Valerie Plame. Her husband had accused the administration of twisting intelligence to justify the Iraq war.

"Mr. Libby failed to meet the bar. For whatever reason, he got off course," said U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton, adding that the evidence of Libby's guilt was overwhelming.

Libby's attorneys immediately sought to put the prison term on hold until his appeals have run out. Walton said he saw no reason to do so but reluctantly gave Libby's attorneys until Thursday to submit legal papers on the issue.

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald — who had called for Libby to spend up to three years in prison — will oppose the request.

"We need to make the statement that the truth matters ever so much," Fitzgerald said.

Delaying the sentence would give President Bush more time to consider calls from Libby's allies to pardon the longtime aide.

Bush, traveling in Europe, declined to say Wednesday whether he may pardon Libby.

"Yesterday was a very sad day for Scooter and his family," Bush told reporters, adding that his "heart goes out" to them.

Libby did not apologize and has maintained his innocence.

"It is respectfully my hope that the court will consider, along with the jury verdict, my whole life," he said in brief remarks in court before the sentencing, his first public statement about the case since his indictment in 2005.

Libby was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice for lying to investigators about his conversations with reporters about Plame. Fitzgerald questioned Bush and Cheney in a probe that became a symbol of the administration's deepening problems.

"Mr. Libby was the poster child for all that has gone wrong in this terrible war," said defense attorney Theodore Wells. "He has fallen from public grace. It is a tragic fall, a tragic fall."

A Republican stalwart, Libby drew more than 150 letters of support from military commanders and diplomats who praised his government service from the Cold War through the early days of the Iraq war.

Walton also fined Libby $250,000 and placed him on two years probation after his prison sentence expires. There is no parole in the federal system, but Libby would be eligible for release after two years.


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