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July 13, 2005

Bernie Ebbers gets 25 years

Further proof that bloggers are not great prognosticators comes from this news that former WorldCom CEO Bernard Ebbers today received a sentence of 25 years' imprisonment for his fraud offenses.  In this post, I had predicted 12 years and Peter Henning at the White Collar Crime Prof Blog had predicted the sentence "will be in the 8-10 year range." 

Over at the White Collar Crime Prof Blog, Ellen Podgor already has a terrific set of reactions to the Ebbers outcome in this post, which concludes: "this sentence represents a new trend in this country — a trend that fails to follow long studied sentencing theory of deterrence and rehabilitation.  It is good to see a crackdown on white collar crime, but folks lets be rational in how it is done." 

UPDATE: At TalkLeft, this post about the Ebbers' outcome is generating interesting comments.  Also, at the White Collar Crime Prof Blog, Ellen Podgor has added some comments to this post about the sentencing significance of charitable work (an issue nicely covered in this USA Today article).

July 13, 2005 at 12:30 PM | Permalink


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It appears that the judge reduced Ebbers's sentence by a token amount, in light of his charitable and community work. But it is only a token, as a 25-year sentence for a 63-year-old man is still the practical equivalent of a life sentence.

On the one hand, this sentence seems to go far beyond what is necessary to achieve the statutory sentencing objectives. But given the sentences meted out to people like the Rigases, Andrew Fastow, and Jamie Olis, it's hard to see Ebbers getting much less than 25 years. Taking his guilt as given (as one must in a sentencing context), Ebbers may be one of history's most egregious thieves.

It would seem to me that if sentencing reform is going to happen, it will begin with the thousands of low-level cases that are adjudicated every year. This sentence may be excessive, but Bernie Ebbers is an unlikely candidate to attract much sympathy.

Posted by: Marc Shepherd | Jul 13, 2005 3:36:35 PM

Huh? Ebbers got a 25 year sentence as the CEO for an alleged $11 billion fraud where the company collapsed and Jamie Olis got 24 and a half years for being a mid level tax accountant who was doing his job, whose company is still very viable and whose boss under plea agreement provided the only conspiracy testimony against him? His boss isn't in jail but Olis is in a medium security lock up without having profited a penny? Does any of this make sense? Easy answer- no it doesn't. Just because prosecutors and congress are going nuts over what they claim is white collar crime doesn't mean that any of this is right. Let's talk about the disparity of all the "experts" and decision makers in the Olis case and the Enron case that prosecutors claim are unindicted coconspirators in order to make the people on trial responsible for everything the experts signed off on and who today get to quietly sit at home- only condition is they have to stay quiet. There is a high stakes game by prosecutors of who gets picked in these alleged mass business conspiracies and just because these are all pretty ridiculous sentences, doesn't mean it is okay to keep going like it actually makes sense to anyone who is concerned with the integrity of our system of justice.

Posted by: A.M | Jul 14, 2005 8:40:54 PM

Doesn't make any sense. Not justice but retribution and crass hypocrisy.Europeans look on aghast at the whimsical way the U.S. justice system 'works'with draconian sentences of appalling length in the 'slammer' and a death sentence rate second only to China.Elected judges outdo each other to show who is toughest to catch the public eye.

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