"We were hoping for the maximum," he said, "to make an example."
Yesterday R. Allen Stanford was sentenced to 110 years in prison after being convicted of multiple counts of defrauding investors by selling phony CD's in an offshore bank.
Mr. Stanford is 62 years old. The sentence, imposed by US District Judge David Hittner, went way overboard. Mr. Stanford will never set foot outside prison again as a free man. He will die behind bars. He would die behind bars if the sentence were 30 years -- probably even much less than that.
A 110 year sentence serves no useful purpose. It gives the prosecutor a big number to put on his resume; maybe white-shoe firms like big numbers. It makes Judge Hittner look like a real tough guy. But why bother?
So what if the federal guidelines - they're advisory, you know - mandate a ridiculously long sentence? Are our federal judges nothing more than clerks who plug in numbers and trace their finger along a column or row in a book? Shouldn't these jurists who were placed on the bench for life have a little discretion at their fingertips?
The quote at the top was from Jaime Escalona, a defrauded investor from Venezuela, who "represented" the Latin American victims of Mr. Stanford's pyramid scheme. The maximum he speaks of was 230 years (an even more absurd big number). What's the example you wish to set, Mr. Escalona?
Those who lost their money will likely never see a penny of it. It's gone. Even those who thought nothing of a high interest rate on a CD, should understand that. It doesn't matter if Mr. Stanford lives to the ripe old age of 172 -- they're never getting paid.
And, as an added bonus, as Mr. Stanford ages and begins to suffer from those maladies that affect older folk, guess who'll be footing that bill. That's right. Us. We'll be the ones on the hook for the increasing medical costs of caring for an aging man.
Mr. Stanford didn't do his case any good when he refused to acknowledge that he defrauded the investors. The judges who like to run their fingers along the columns and rows of the advisory sentencing guidelines tend to take a dim view of someone who refuses to accept responsibility for his actions. They like to use the term upward departure.
Well, sometimes juries convict the wrong person. If Mr. Stanford believes he was wrongly convicted and is looking to appeal, confessing his guilt to the court isn't the best course of action. Harmless error, anyone?
Mr. Stanford ran a pyramid scheme. He promised outrageous returns for supposedly safe CD's which wealthy folks hungry for more money ate up. When he couldn't convince enough people to cough up money he could use to pay the earlier "investors," his company collapsed. He stole nearly $6 billion.
And, lest I forget, Judge Hittner also made Mr. Stanford personally responsible for restitution. Excuse me, Judge Hittner, how the hell is a man sentenced to life in prison supposed to come up with that kind of dough?
And what would the penalty be for not paying it back? Would he have to sit it out for $100 a day?
Mr. Stanford was found guilty. He stole a lot of money. He should go to prison. But the sentence handed out by Judge Hittner was ridiculous.
Just what kind of example did he make?