Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Bernard Ebbers' Trail of Tears

You've got to hand it to Bernard Ebbers. It takes a certain strength of character to drive oneself through the prison gates when reporting for a life sentence. (Technically, Ebbers' securities fraud sentence is 25 years--21 or so with good behavior--but at 65 and with a heart condition, it might as well be life.) Ebbers, who had remained free on bail during his trial and appeal, was ordered to report to a Louisiana federal prison by 2 P.M. yesterday. This he accomplished in style, waking up in his Mississippi home and driving the 230 miles to FCI Oakdale in a late-model Mercedes. The vehicle--rented, I suspect, since Ebbers forfeited virtually all of his $45 million personal wealth--sent a clear message to his government-salaried prosecutors: you can take away my money, you can even take away my freedom, but you can't touch my class.

But, Lord, what must go through a man's mind as the dashboard clock and odometer tick away the last hours and miles of his freedom? What could Ebbers and his wife have talked about on the final journey of their marriage? Did they listen to the radio? Stop for gas? At a cheap motel? (There are no conjugal visits in federal prisons--imagine knowing that you're done with that for good.) And where would you go for lunch, the last restaurant meal of your existence? Could you make it through the Fixins Bar at Roy Rogers without losing your mind?
And you just have to wonder how strong was the temptation to point the car South; flee across the border for another day, week, maybe years of freedom if he had planned it well enough. So what if they eventually caught him--what could they do, put him in prison?

Alternatively, why not follow Ken Lay's easy way out? A last dinner party with friends and family, prime rib garnished with 1500 mg of Seconol, and off to bed for the ultimate bail jump. Does a rational human being deliver himself up alive for a lifetime of bondage?

I have to say that the prospect of retirement, senescence, and death behind bars makes me almost sorry for Bernard Ebbers. But then I think of all those Worldcom pensioners whose post-65 plans didn't turn out as expected, either, and... not so much.

1 comment:

  1. Did you hear about the sentencing for Mr. E. Forbes Smiley, noted map thief?

    He only got 3.5 years in the federal pokey, because of his 'help' in locating some of the maps he stole.

    Oddly, he just can't seem to remember what happened to some of them, but the judge seemed to look kindly on his faulty memory.

    So clearly there's white collar prison and then there's white collar prison.


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