Washington Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison Tuesday and ordered to pay $250,000 for lying and obstructing the CIA leak investigation - the probe that showed a White House obsessed with criticism of its decision to go to war.
I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the highest-ranking White House official sentenced to prison since the Iran-Contra affair, asked for leniency, but a federal judge said he would not reward someone who hindered the investigation into the exposure of a CIA operative. The operative's husband had accused the administration of twisting intelligence to justify the Iraq war.
No date was set immediately for Libby to report to prison.
"Mr. Libby failed to meet the bar. For whatever reason, he got off course," said U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton.
Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who spent years investigating the case, said, "We need to make the statement that the truth matters ever so much." He had asked for a sentence of up to three years, while Libby had asked for probation and no time in prison.
Reaction from the White House was still supportive - but somber.
President Bush, traveling in Europe, said through a spokesman that he "felt terrible for the family," especially Libby's wife and children. Libby and his wife, Harriet Grant, have two school-age children, a son and a daughter.
Cheney said he hoped his former top aide would prevail on appeal.
Libby did not apologize and has maintained his innocence.
Libby was convicted in March of perjury and obstruction of justice for lying to investigators about his conversations with reporters about CIA official Valerie Plame. Fitzgerald questioned Bush and Cheney in a probe that became a symbol of the administration's deepening problems.
Defense attorneys sought to have the sentence delayed until appeals run out. A delay also would give Bush more time to consider calls from Libby's allies to pardon the longtime aide.