Water Man Spouts

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Scooter Dogg Gets Pounded

Judge Reggie Walton appeared to be setting limits on the defense strategy that I. Lewis Libby's attorney outlined in federal court yesterday. For many liberals/progressives, this comes as a surprise, because they had anticipated that the conservative judge would be prone to helping "Scooter" avoid facing consequences for his criminal behaviors. Before we look at some of the highpoints from yesterday's pre-trial hearing, perhaps it would be beneficial to review a couple things from Judge Walton's past.
Judge Walton is often the source of strong, negative reactions from liberals and progressives. I note, for example, that when Daily Kos member Cedwyn submitted a thoughtful study, "Libby's Arraignment Judge: Reggie Walton" (10-29-05), which documented the judge has delivered verdicts that range from good to bad, another member accused Cedwyn of being a right-wing stooge.
While Reggie Walton is not Malcolm X, neither is he Clarence Thomas. It is interesting to note that Judge Walton came from a very different world than, say, Scooter Libby and his "dream team" defense attorneys. He grew up in Donora, Pennsylvania, where he had a troubled childhood and youth. He was part of a street gang, and was arrested three times. As a teenager, he often carried a hand gun and a razor. Most of the people he hung with are now dead or in prison.
Walton himself was headed for the life of a flint-hard inmate, until an experienced changed his course. He was involved in a gang fight, where another young man was stabbed 9 times in the back with an ice pick. Walton brought the victim to an ER for treatment. He realized that if the boy had died, his life's options would also end.
Reggie Walton began to focus on his education. This proved difficult, because he had problems reading. Other students made fun of him. Walton began to find himself on the football field, and won an athletic scholarship to West Virginia State, where he was being watched by the Baltimore Colts. Then a physical injury ended his dreams of being a professional athlete.
Walton then focused on putting himself through law school. He worked part-time jobs, and put in long hours of study outside the classroom.
An article by Peter Yost in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette (11-27-05) tells of how Walton has invested a significant amount of time since he graduated college, going to juvenile detention centers, and working with young people heading in the wrong direction in life. He's not ashamed of his past, and he has not forgotten his roots. When young people tell him that there are no opportunities for them in life, he makes clear that he recognizes how hard their lives are, but that they can change.
I'm reminded of Malcolm saying that there is no shame in saying you used to be a drunk, a criminal, or used to live in the gutter -- but there is shame in saying you choose to continue to be a drunk, a criminal, and to remain in that gutter.
It can take a rigid discipline for people like judge Walton to change their lives. And that rigid discipline often translates into a lack of sympathy for those who make excuses for their criminal ways. Thus, Judge Walton has a history of being a rigid jurist, who hands out harsh sentences to those who lie to try to escape taking responsibility for their actions.
And that, of course, brings us to Scooter Libby, the child of privilege, who Yost notes graduated from boarding school, Yale, and Columbia. In yesterday's hearing, Scooter's attorney Theodore Wells laid out defense plans to attack anyone who has hinted that Scooter was involved in a plot to smear Joseph Wilson; discredit anyone who says Scooter knew Valerie Plame's identity was sensitive; and to try to make Scooter's trial for charges of perjury and obstruction of justice into a circus that showcases Wilson's trip to Niger and Bush's State of the Union address.
Judge Walton, however, is being firm but fair. He did rule that Mr. Fitzgerald has to turn over evidence regarding President Bush and VP Cheney declassifying a National Intelligence Estimate regarding possible WMD programs in Iraq. This may not help Scooter explain away the charges against him, but it will surely put the role of President Bush in sharper focus. That is important, because too often the media refers to Libby only as VP Cheney's chief of staff. He was, in fact, also Cheney's national security adviser, and assistant to President Bush. Those two roles will be as important in Mr. Fitzgerald's case as the VP's chief of staff.
Wells also noted that he is prepared to attack Wilson; he repeatedly called Wilson a "habitual liar" and said he had 5 witnesses who would testify the former ambassador had told them about his wife's CIA employment. Walton told him, "I don't know how it has any bearing on whether your client allegedly testified falsely."
Wilson later told CNN that Fitzgerald's investigation "make it very clear that the government believes several administration officials were engaged in a campaign to smear and discredit me, and it wold seem from the sounds of this that that campaign is continuing."
Wells also told Judge Walton that he planned to focus on Wilson's trip to Niger. "You want to try the legitimacy of our government going to war in Iraq," Walton replied. "I just don't intend to have this case become a forum for debating whether Wilson is right or the administration is right.... I'm just not going to let this case turn into a judicial resolution of the legitimacy of the war or the accuracy of the president's State of the Union address. .... You want to try the legitimacy of the war, and I don't see how this helps us determine whether Libby lied when he talked to the FBI and went before the grand jury."
Scooter Libby is, in my opinion, as much of a thug as the gang member who stabbed the kid in the back 9 times with an ice pick in Donora, PA, more than 30 years ago. Libby is attempting to continue his gang attack on Joseph Wilson today.
Reggie Walton has to recognize the tactics of a coward who refuses to take responsibility for his criminal behaviors. He just might be the perfect judge for this case.


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