We know this is more the milieu for our favourite federal blogger David O Markus, but this really disturbs us:
Former Enron boss Jeffrey Skilling was sentenced yesterday to 24 years for his leading role in the Enron fraud that led to the energy firm's 2001 collapse
Here's what's on our mind:
1) The loss was enormous. Many ordinary people lost their savings and retirement money.
2) Mr. Skilling's life is ruined. He will be out of prison in his late 70's - a broken man. A life wasted by his crimes and mistakes, and a legal system bent on vengence.
Our legal system should be better and more wise then the people it punishes.
While Mr. Skilling has no one to blame but himself, we believe the sentence was way out of line.
3) What’s the difference between Mr. Skilling getting out of prison in 2017 as opposed to 2031? Would the punishment and the prison sentence’s deterrent effect be any less effective?
Enron was the product of more than one person. Yet Mr. Skilling has been sacrificed on the alter of vengeance demanded by politicians who flocked to the issue of corporate fraud to garner votes.
As criminal law practitioners, we have occasion to visit our clients in jail. No one likes it. The officers are difficult to deal with at best. Now imagine dealing with that for 3,654 days, 24 hours a day.
Isn't that enough? Can you think of any business executive, who seeing what Mr. Skilling has gone through, would not think that losing everything and being sent to prison for ten years, plus fines, restitution and supervised release would not be sufficient to be a deterrent to crime?
We understand that in the past stealing with a pen was treated leniently as opposed to stealing with a gun. But there is a qualitative difference.
We think even a casual review of the Enron mess would reveal that these people did not start out to bilk everyone out of their money. What happened is that when things went bad, the people in charge were not able to stand up and take the heat.
They saw their life's work going down the drain, and in a misguided effort to save it, they lied, which caused investors to lose money.
That is definitely a serious crime. The crime merits punishment.
But not a punishment that amounts to life in prison.
Prison sentences over 15 years should be reserved for violent or potentially violent individuals.
In our view, Mr. Skilling’s sentence is twice as harsh as we believe would be necessary to both punish and send a message to deter future conduct.
But what do we know?
However, our favourite Bard knew this:
The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
Tis mightiest in the mightiest:
it becomes the throned monarch better than his crown.
The Merchant Of Venice.