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Despite the commutation of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby Jr.’s 30-month prison sentence for lying to investigators about who exposed Valerie Plame Wilson as a CIA officer, he may still face questions in Plame’s civil suit. The lawsuit in federal district court in Washington accuses Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney, former State Department Deputy Secretary Richard Armitage and presidential adviser Karl Rove of intentionally exposing Plame’s classified status to reporters. It was allegedly done in retaliation for her husband Joe Wilson’s public challenging of President Bush’s assertion in the 2003 State of the Union that Saddam Hussein sought “significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” Libby “sounds like live game to me,” said Frank Pitre, one of Plame’s lawyers in reference to the potential of questioning Libby about the events surrounding Plame’s exposure. Pitre of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy in Burlingame, Calif., said there is no reason why Libby shouldn’t testify now that the criminal prosecution is done and he will not serve time in jail. But another member of the Plame team, Erwin Chemerinsky, a Duke Law School professor, saw the commutation having little implication for the civil suit. “Any person in a civil case can invoke the Fifth Amendment, but an adverse inference can be drawn from that in a civil case. “Any question that goes to what he has already been prosecuted for, that is not privileged. But there are other things that were not the basis for the conviction for which he could conceivably be prosecuted,” Chemerinsky said. Libby would only have to answer questions for which he has already been prosecuted. A presidential pardon, if one were issued for Libby, would have a “tremendous effect on the civil suit,” Chemerinsky said. Once pardoned, a privilege against incrimination could not be invoked, he said. Libby was convicted of lying to a grand jury and obstruction of justice in the leak investigation, but was not charged with being an actual leaker of the information. Plame’s suit claims that Libby, Cheney and Rove conspired to reveal her secret status as a CIA operative for partisan political gain. “It’s apples and oranges,” said Libby’s lawyer in the civil case, Alex Bourelly of Houston-based Baker Botts’ Washington office. “The civil case is completely separate. We would vigorously defend him whether he was in prison or out,” Bourelly said. But before Libby, Cheney, Armitage or Rove will ever face Plame’s lawyers, there is a motion to dismiss the case based on immunity still pending before U.S. District Judge John D. Bates. Wilson v. Libby, No. 06-1258JDB. The motion was heard on May 17 and may not be decided until fall.

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