E-Mailbag: So Was Scooter Libby Pardoned Or What?

Reader Jim J. writes in to take issue with an apparent contradiction during this morning's "Early Show":
"I was watching the Early Show this morning…The headline on the screen reads 'Libby Pardon', while at the VERY SAME TIME, Bill Plante's words are 'Libby has not been pardoned, he is still a convicted felon.' So which is it?"
Good catch, Jim J. The answer to your question is that Libby has not actually been pardoned – and that the person responsible for putting "Libby Pardon" onscreen made a mistake. From the president's statement on the matter:
Mr. Libby was sentenced to thirty months of prison, two years of probation, and a $250,000 fine. In making the sentencing decision, the district court rejected the advice of the probation office, which recommended a lesser sentence and the consideration of factors that could have led to a sentence of home confinement or probation.

I respect the jury's verdict. But I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive. Therefore, I am commuting the portion of Mr. Libby's sentence that required him to spend thirty months in prison.

To commute a sentence is to make it less severe; a pardon, as Adam Liptak writes, "excuses or forgives the offense itself." In this case, the conviction stands, as well as the probation and fine – but the prison term that came with it has been erased.