Here’s an update on the post “Calling all lawyers”:
The call has been answered. I consider the following e-mail response from a trusted legal source to be definitive:
There’s no question that perjury can be prosecuted if the defendant lied about something that was material to the investigation, even though the investigation did not otherwise result in charges being brought.
As for how often such cases are prosecuted, the reality is that perjury is a relatively rarely prosecuted crime. No doubt the vast majority of people who lie under oath, in trials, let alone grand jury hearings, are not prosecuted. However, Libby certainly should have expected that in this kind of high-profile, no-stones-unturned investigation, any perjury as stark as his allegedly was, would be prosecuted.
There are relatively few federal perjury prosecutions. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in fiscal year 1999 there were 126 perjury defendants disposed of in U.S. District Courts. One hundred and six of these defendants were convicted and 80 imprisoned. The average sentence was 22.9 months.
And I’m still wondering about the observation of commenter Holmes, who wrote:
In this instance, the original charge wasn’t dropped for lack of evidence despite having probable cause as in Stewart’s case, but that there was no case to begin with. An element of the CIA law was that Plame be a CIA covert operative who had been overseas in the past 5 years. That was clearly missing. It would be like prosecuting a murder where the victim was alive and had been unharmed. This is the danger in Congress’ power to call investigations.
I don’t think I can press for any more free advice from my legal source. But I’m wondering about Holmes’s point. Were some of the elements of the crime clearly missing from this case in the first place? And, if this were in fact true, would it even matter in regard to the perjury charges? Or does perjury stand alone once it’s committed, needing no original valid cause of action?