Thursday, August 11, 2005

So Far Cooperation Brings Big Rewards in WorldCom Case

Yesterday, former WorldCom controller David Myers was sentenced to a year and a day, a sentence equivalent to that received by former WorldCom Accounting Director Buford Yates. (See Wall Street Jrl here).Giving a year and a day allows the defendant the opportunity to reduce the sentence premised on good time.  (See post here)

So far the WorldCom sentences have been:

Bernard Ebbers - 25 years (see here)

Betty Vinson- 5 months jail, 5 months house arrest (see here)

Troy Norman - no jail time (see here)

David Myers - year and a day in jail, and three years supervised release

Key cooperator Scott Sullivan is due to be sentenced today.

Reactions so far:

1. The Booker/Blakely cases have had relatively no effect on white collar sentences being issued by judges.  Atty General Gonzales (here) can't argue that there is a drift toward lower sentences or that sentence reductions are happening because of activist judges.  Perhaps the argument should be made that lower sentences are happening because prosecutors are "dealing" them out in return for testimony.  These WorldCom related sentences support the position that the best way to receive a reduced sentence is to provide some form of cooperation to the government.  Prosecutors, not judges, have been the ones calling for the reduced sentences. Prosecutors could do this prior to these Supreme Court decisions under 5K1.1 and they continue to request that judges treat cooperating defendants extremely favorably.

2. With the disparity in sentences so far (25 years for Ebbers in contrast to others), sentences not based solely on the culpability of the individual but significantly premised on cooperation, will defendants in other cases be encouraged to cooperate? It is obviously a goal of prosecutors in asking for these reduced sentences, to send a message that cooperation will be heavily rewarded. To some this may seem beneficial in reducing criminal activity.  But one also has to wonder if the incentive for cooperation is too high and may result in encouraging individuals to provide cooperation that may not be truthful.

3.  What happens to the individual who is last to be indicted when there is no one left to talk against and no way to provide cooperation?  What happens when the the accused has nothing to offer in cooperation because they did not see or hear anything?  Are we punishing these individuals with heavier sentences merely because they have nothing to offer the government?  Should we be afraid that they will invent something to tell the government just to obtain a reduced sentence?

4.  The Bill of Rights provides everyone accused of a crime with the right to a jury trial.  Are we punishing individuals who avail themselves of this right?

(esp)   

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/whitecollarcrime_blog/2005/08/so_far_cooperat.html

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» Cooperating with white-collar prosecutors from PointOfLaw Forum
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