- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 28, 2005


NEW YORK - Federal prosecutors want former WorldCom boss Bernard Ebbers to go to prison for the rest of his life, urging a judge to brush off his pleas for leniency.

In court papers made public yesterday, the government encouraged the judge to mete out a penalty consistent with a federal probation report that has recommended a life sentence.

“The enormity of the crimes that Ebbers committed cannot be overstated: The fraud at WorldCom was the largest securities fraud in history,” prosecutors wrote. “Along with Enron, the name WorldCom has become synonymous with fraud.”

Prosecutors also encouraged Judge Barbara Jones to consider the sentence given last week to Adelphia Communications founder John Rigas — 15 years. Rigas, 80, and in poor health, could be released sooner if he serves at least two years and has less than three months to live.

Ebbers, 63, with a history of heart problems, was convicted March 15 of orchestrating the $11 billion accounting fraud that sank WorldCom three years ago. His sentencing is set for July 13.

He has asked the judge for a sentence “substantially below” life in prison, citing his poor health and a history of charitable works. More than 100 people, mostly family and friends, have written to Judge Jones on his behalf.

Prosecutors told the judge she should reject those arguments. They said the U.S. Bureau of Prisons would have no trouble looking after Ebbers’ health.

As for the good works Ebbers says should win him leniency, including compassion for others and acting as a professional role model, prosecutors said those “are what one should expect of decent, hardworking people.”

While probation officials have recommended a life sentence based on sentencing guidelines, a Supreme Court ruling earlier this year changed the guidelines from mandatory to merely advisory.

Prosecutors also pointed Judge Jones to two other financial fraud cases in New York — an insurance executive who was sentenced to 20 years in prison and a financing company executive who was sentenced to 22 years.

Ebbers’ conduct was “demonstrably worse” than actions in both of those cases, prosecutors wrote.

Ebbers is awaiting the judge’s ruling on his bid for a new trial, claiming the government or the judge should have granted immunity to three former WorldCom employees that Ebbers says could have helped his defense.

His lawyers have also indicated Ebbers will appeal his conviction.

Five other WorldCom executives who pleaded guilty in the fraud and cooperated with prosecutors against Ebbers are awaiting sentencings later this summer.

WorldCom collapsed into bankruptcy — the largest in U.S. history — in 2002 after Ebbers resigned and the fraud came to light. It has since emerged from bankruptcy and operates now under the name MCI Inc.

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