WASHINGTON – Former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby left a federal courtroom with his wife Tuesday after being sentenced to 30 months in prison and a $250,000 fine for lying and obstructing the CIA leak investigation.
Libby, departing in a car without commenting to reporters, does not begin his prison sentence immediately. Judge Reggie B. Walton allowed Libby to remain free on bail pending his appeal, but said he saw no reason to delay action and will offer a ruling next week after reviewing written arguments.
In the meantime, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons will decide where Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, serves his sentence, and will set a reporting date likely within the next 60 days.
Cheney called Libby a "friend," saying he is "deeply saddened" by his former chief of staff's trial and sentencing.
"I have always considered him to be a man of the highest intellect, judgment and personal integrity — a man fully committed to protecting the vital security interests of the United States and its citizens," Cheney said in a statement. "Speaking as friends, we hope that our system will return a final result consistent with what we know of this fine man."
Walton also fined Libby $250,000 and placed him on probation for two years following his release from prison.
Libby stood calmly before a packed courtroom when his sentencing was announced.
"People who occupy these types of positions, where they have the welfare and security of nation in their hands, have a special obligation to not do anything that might create a problem," Walton said.
President Bush, currently traveling abroad, will not intervene in the case while it's under appeal, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said after Libby's sentencing.
Bush "felt terrible for the family" when he heard about the sentence from White House chief of staff Josh Bolten and Counselor Dan Bartlett en route to Rostock, Germany, Perino said.
• Click here to read Libby's indictment. (FindLaw)
Libby was convicted in March of lying and obstructing an investigation into the 2003 leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity.
The highest-ranking White House official convicted in a government scandal since the Iran-Contra affair, Libby has steadfastly maintained his innocence.
"It is respectfully my hope that the court will consider, along with the jury verdict, my whole life," Libby said in brief remarks to the judge.
Sitting with Libby's wife Harriet Grant during the sentencing were conservative commentators Mary Matalin, a former Cheney aide, and Victoria Toensing, a former deputy assistant attorney general during the Reagan administration. Toensing wrote the Intelligence Identities Protection Act that was used to launch the CIA leak probe. Libby was not charged with revealing Plame's name but lying about how her name found its way to the media.
With letters of support from several former military commanders and White House and State Department officials, Libby asked for no jail time. His supporters cited a government career in which Libby helped win the Cold War and the first Gulf War.
"He has fallen from public grace," defense attorney Theodore Wells said. "It is a tragic fall, a tragic fall."
Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald called on Libby to serve up to three years in prison. Fitzgerald declined to comment after the sentencing hearing.
FOX News' Jim Angle and The Associated Press contributed to this report.