Just when I was beginning to lose faith in the justice system concerning white collar crime, Jeffery Skilling gets 24 years imprisonment.  That is something to cheer about.  You can read the story at USA Today

I studied white collar crime not too long ago and that was, by far, the most depressing class I have ever taken.  Crime after crime we studied and the harshest sentence was 10 years because Bernie Ebers hadn’t been convicted when the text book went to print.  And the class was over before Skilling ever went to trial.  I figured he’d get off almost scott free just like all the other crooks that wore suits to work.

The guys took pensions from employees that had poured their life into their work, looked forward to a comfortable retirement and now they are working after age 65 because they have nothing.  It is enough to make a grown woman cry. 

Kudos to District U.S. Judge Sim Lake because he recognized the bald fact that Skilling lied repeatedly to investors.  But… Judge Lake did not give the maximum sentence according to guidelines enacted in 2000 which gauges the sentence according to the amount of financial losses.  The maximum would have been 30 years and Skilling got the minimum.

This is the huge problem I have with the way judges sentence these white collar criminals.  Since no one died, they send the message that financial loss or financial ruin is not “as bad” as murder.  It is a horrendous crime to take someone’s hard-earned money and fritter it away like so much confetti.  When are judges going to wake up?  Taking a person’s life savings or pension or retirement may not be as bad as taking a life.  However, it is stealing a comfortable retirement.  That’s stealing and that ranks in the ten commandments dead even with murder. 

 Compare sentencing from USA Today archives:


WorldCom CEO Bernard Ebbers: 25 years

Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling: 24 years, 4 months

Adelphia Communications chief financial officer Timothy Rigas: 20 years

Adelphia Communications founder John Rigas: 15 years

Tyco International CEO Dennis Kozlowski: 8 1/3 to 25 years

Tyco International CFO Mark H. Swartz: 8 1/3 to 25 years

ImClone Systems CEO Samuel Waksal: 7 years, 3 months

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia CEO Martha Stewart: Five months in prison, plus five months and three weeks of home confinement

Enron CFO Andrew Fastow: 6 years

Sources: USA TODAY archive

See what I mean?

The problem was eloquently put by Tom Fowler on his chron.com blog when he quoted Lake, “[Skilling’s] crimes imposed on hundreds, if not thousands, to a life sentence of poverty.”

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Gina Burgess is the editor of The Tensas Gazette and a redactor for internet marketing company.  She is a columnist for Live As If.org and a site admin for Studylight.org.  Visit her blog at Refreshment In Refuge.

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