Wednesday, August 5, 2009

What To Do With Dollar Bill

For the last several hours, (and I'm certain for the next several as well,) Talk Radio has been abuzz with that very question. What sentence should be given to Former Louisiana State Senator/Former Louisiana Congressman/Convicted Felon William Jennings Jefferson? (Check out his Wiki page. They've already added "convicted felon" to it.) The 'Man-In-The-Street' has suggested everything from complete exoneration to the death penalty. I have the answer.

One year in jail for every year he pretended to be working for the people of Louisiana. While he was first elected to public office in 1979 he has only been a federal politician for eighteen years, from 1990 to 2008. The crimes in question come directly from his time spent as a member of the US House of Representatives and that's where my reasoning comes from. Eighteen years. Does he deserve more? Probably, but I think eighteen years is appropriate. He would be 80 at the time of his release.

If he lives that long.

No parole, no time off for good behaviour. Face it, the 'good behaviour' deal is actually geared toward violent offenders. It's a gift if they can manage to act like a human being. Jefferson is not a violent criminal and I don't expect him to start shivving prison guards ten minutes after he is placed in custody. Parole is derived from the French term for "(spoken) word." It became linked to prisoner release as the inmate in question gave their "word of honor" that they would not return to a life of crime. Bill Jefferson? Word of honor? Thank you for applying, next inmate, please.

The airwaves are filled with people who think that anything more than fifteen years would be excessive. Former US Attorney Harry Rosenberg posits that Jefferson will eventually receive between 10-15 years.

Comparisons have been drawn to Edwin Edwards who received ten years in prison for his roles in bribery schemes to award riverboat casino licenses in Louisiana. While the crimes may appear similar, at least Edwards was actually bringing businesses into the state and jobs to his constituents. Jefferson was buying himself and his family into foreign based businesses with no benefit whatsoever to the people he represented.

Comparisons have also been drawn to Bernie Madoff whose Ponzi Scheme siphoned over ten-billion dollars from unsuspecting investors. Madoff received a sentence of 150 years for his shenanigans which some people think is far worse than Jefferson's crimes. They claim that Jefferson never harmed or killed anyone by accepting bribes. I think they're wrong.

While Jefferson never actually pulled a trigger or slit a throat, money that he and his family collected through Federal Government grants intended for the numerous "non-profit" organizations they own ended up lining their own pockets. Money which could have been the difference between a child picking up a pen, brush or math book instead of a gun or a crack pipe. Can you honestly tell me, with a straight face, that Bill Jefferson's actions caused harm to no-one?

For those of you thinking that eighteen years is too light a sentence, remember there's the forfeiture. The thinking here is that Jefferson will end up having to forfeit at least a half a million dollars which he and his family members profited through his shady dealings. I think that's abysmally low. Let's set a precedent and force him to pay back the Federal Government every cent he made from his salary as a congressman. Let's make that the rule of law for any public official convicted of corruption. Jefferson's forfeiture hearing is set for today.

Jefferson's actions have cast doubt on his entire career of "public service" and for that, he should pay dearly and lose his entire paycheck from his "service" on Capitol Hill. That would add just over 2.7 million dollars to his forfeiture, and for Bill Jefferson, a man who worships the all-mighty dollar, that would hurt him more than any prison term.

UPDATE: Jefferson's forfeiture hearing ran its course today, and as expected he will have to cough up over $470 million, plus millions of shares of (now worthless) stock in a (now defunct) Nigerian telecom company. Next up is his sentencing, scheduled for October 30th.

3 comments:

Elle said...

Bravo! Like to see Andrea and a couple of the "children" come down too. They were all so high-falutin'. Maybe Dollar's grandchildren can go to school with the kids his family stole from, but, of course, they're above those sorts.

Laurel LaFlamme said...

I like your sentencing theory and, while I totally agree, I do think the sentence would be too light.

Here in South Carolina, the whole state has been in a buzz about our whore-mongering, jet setting, Governor Sanford. He recently cheated on his wife, used SC money to fly back and forth to his Argentine mistress that he says publicly is his "soul-mate."

Jenny, his wife, and his three kids just moved out of the Governors' mansion (to their luxury home on Sullivan's Island). It's been a big, huge stink!

The whole country already thinks South Carolinians are nothing but stupid rednecks with furniture on their front porch.

Yet another blow for our state...tonight they said on the news that they have enough evidence to impeach him.

Now, he in no way committed the level of offense as your guy, Jefferson, (hiding cash in his freezer is what we heard?)...but that just makes me wonder: Why is it that we just cannot seem to get Leaders of integrity?

Our country has been plagued with nothing but liars, cheats, and thieves with nefarious intent since as long as I can remember.

I recall my first assignment to New Orleans back around the beginning of 2000-2001. I was watching the local news in disbelief that your officials were going to trial.

Oh, well...they caught a couple of bad apples I thought. No...it's just been a steady stream of bad apples for New Orleans and the state of Louisiana for quite some time!

You nailed it for the entire nation when you wrote:
"While Jefferson never actually pulled a trigger or slit a throat, money that he and his family collected through Federal Government grants intended for the numerous "non-profit" organizations they own ended up lining their own pockets.

Money which could have been the difference between a child picking up a pen, brush or math book instead of a gun or a crack pipe. Can you honestly tell me, with a straight face, that Bill Jefferson's actions caused harm to no-one?"

BRAVO! BRAVO! BRAVO!

We are a nation of morons because we sit idly by twiddling our thumbs while our elected officials rob us blind.

Bur what can we do? We are essentially helpless after the vote, just flung around in the ebb and flow of national corruption.

It guess it could be worse. We could be living in Cote d'Ivoire where men come in the night and kill ya with their machetes if you even speak about the government.

But really, the United States is the "leader of the free world" - what does it take to get an actual honest man of integrity into office these days? An act of Congress? *wink*

M Styborski said...

Hear, Hear, dear, dear!!