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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, was sentenced Tuesday to 30 months in prison for lying to investigators looking into the leak of a CIA operative's identity.
He also was fined $250,000. Libby was convicted March 6 of four counts in a five-count indictment alleging perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements to FBI investigators.
He plans to appeal the verdict.
Cheney released a statement after the verdict saying he is "deeply saddened" by his former aide and friend's conviction and he hopes that his appeal will "return a final result consistent with what we know of this fine man."
Libby has served "tirelessly and with great distinction" in the State and Defense departments and in the White House, Cheney said.
"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," the vice president said.
Federal Judge Reggie Walton said he would make a decision next Tuesday on whether to allow Libby to remain free while his lawyers file an appeal.
Under federal sentencing guidelines, Libby -- if imprisoned -- must serve at least 80 percent of his sentence, or two years.
If the judge decides Libby must start serving his sentence, it could be 45 to 60 days before he must report to prison.
Libby, standing next to his wife, bowed his head when the sentences were read.
Neither Libby nor his attorneys spoke to reporters after leaving the courthouse.
A White House spokeswoman said President Bush "felt terrible" for Libby, his wife and children.
Deputy White House Press Secretary Dana Perino told reporters that because appeals are still pending, the White House would have no further comment.
President Bush "has not intervened so far in this," Perino said.
Aides informed Bush about the sentence on board Air Force One as he flew from the Czech Republic to Germany to attend the G8 summit.
The 30-month sentence was for the obstruction of justice charge. Libby received shorter sentences on the other counts, to run concurrently.
"People who occupy these types of positions, where they have the welfare and security of the nation in their hands, have a special obligation to not do anything that might create a problem," Walton said, according to The Associated Press.
Libby was found guilty in March of lying to investigators about what he told reporters about Valerie Plame Wilson, whose identity as a CIA operative was leaked to the media in 2003.
Libby has maintained his innocence ever since he was indicted and resigned in October 2005.
Libby spoke briefly before he was sentenced, telling the judge, "I realize fully that the court must decide my punishment. It is respectfully my hope that the court will consider, along with the jury verdict, my whole life."
Libby's wife, Harriet Grant, sat in the packed courtroom with conservative commentator Mary Matalin, a former Cheney aide, the AP said.
On Tuesday, the judge released dozens of letters written to him by Libby's supporters and detractors, including former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton.
In one letter, Robert Blackwill, who served as presidential envoy to Iraq and in several other posts under President Bush, said he has known Libby for 20 years.
"During these years at the White House, I encountered no one more driven by analytical temperament, fairness of mind and sound policy reasoning than Scooter Libby," Blackwill said.
"Mr. Libby in my judgment has been, over the decades, an exemplary public policy practitioner."
Another person, whose signature was redacted, wrote, "I am writing to urge that Scooter Libby receive the maximum possible sentence. Due to the crimes for which he was convicted, we may never know of the more substantial criminal activities for which he served as a firewall."
The case involves statements Libby made to the FBI and a grand jury during their probe into how the covert identity of CIA operative Plame Wilson was leaked. Libby was the only person charged in the probe. He was not accused of actually leaking classified material.
Plame Wilson's name became public when Robert Novak named her in his column on July 14, 2003. Her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, had openly questioned the Bush administration's basis for invading Iraq. (Timeline of key events in investigation)
Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage has admitted he disclosed the information to a reporter. Novak pointed to another "senior administration official" -- Bush political adviser Karl Rove -- as the second source for his column.
After the jury returned its verdict against Libby on March 6, lead defense attorney Ted Wells appeared on the courthouse steps with Libby and his other attorneys and declared, "We have every confidence Mr. Libby ultimately will be vindicated." Wells said he believes his client is "totally innocent and that he did not do anything wrong."
Cheney has continued to express support and empathy for his former chief of staff, and it's possible Libby could be granted a presidential pardon before the end of President Bush's term.
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