Just last week, the Supreme Court upheld a 33-month prison sentence for a decorated Army veteran who was convicted of lying to a federal agent about buying a machine gun. The veteran had a record of public service — fighting in Vietnam and the Gulf War — and no criminal record. But Justice Department lawyers argued his prison term should stand because it fit within the federal sentencing guidelines.
Not quite - from the Supreme Court opinion:
Rita was convicted in May 1986, and sentenced to five years’ probation for making false statements in connection with the purchase of firearms. Because this conviction took place more than 10 years before the present offense, it did not count against Rita [for purposes of the Sentencing Guidelines]. And because Rita had no other relevant convictions, the Guidelines considered him as having no criminal history points.
So in fact, Rita had been convicted for perjury for the second time in a gun-related investigation. Although that fact was not emphasized in the legal discussion, it may well have entered the minds of some of the people involved.
Let's see how Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune handled this:
Rita was sentenced to 33 months in prison for making two false statements to a grand jury about a parts kit he had purchased, allegedly to make an illegal machine gun.
Rita is a decorated combat veteran of the Vietnam and Gulf Wars and has no prior criminal history.
Ooops - not reality-based.
For comparison, let's note how a seasoned pro like Adam Liptak of the Times can obfuscate rather than communicate:
Like Mr. Libby, Mr. Rita had no criminal history for purposes of the federal sentencing guidelines.
Well done! Steve Benen, guest-blogging at The Political Animal, translated that as "both Rita and Libby are first-time offenders". Oops - not reality-based.
Well - another obvious problem with the Libby-Rita comparison is that Libby's defenders argue that there was no underlying crime; it is certainly true that Fitzgerald indicted no one for the leak he was purportedly investigating.
However, this news release tells us that indictments were handed down in the investigation in which Mr. Rita was involved.
To sum up - Mr. Rita was convicted on two occasions of perjury in gun related investigations; in the second investigation, indictments for the underlying crime were returned. Not a compelling comparison to the Libby case.