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Ebbers: Killing 'Em Softly

I'll admit that I'm a bit of a softy. Sure, I like my sports exciting, my beer cold, and my vacations in Vegas. But I also think Roberta Flack's 1973 hit Killing Me Softly is, well, cool. And you know what? I'm not alone.

Take former WorldCom CEO Bernie Ebbers, for example. The aw-shucks huckster is pleading for leniency because he's been a sensitive guy. Seriously. According to Corporate Crime Reporter, attorneys for Ebbers argue that his "kindness to others" and charitable giving should be a factor in his sentencing.

The prosecutors disagree. This morning, they asked the court to sentence Ebbers to 85 years in prison. That would amount to a life sentence for the 63-year-old. I can't say I'm too sympathetic.

Listen to this, from the same petition made by Ebbers' lawyers earlier this month: "Although Mr. Ebbers stands by his testimony and is deeply disappointed by the jury's verdict, Mr. Ebbers is profoundly sorry that fraudulent activity took place at WorldCom during his tenure as the company's CEO and for all the harm suffered by WorldCom's investors." Translation: I got rich and you got screwed, not that I really meant for it to happen that way.

Bernie may indeed have been a good buddy to some, but shareholders weren't on the list. The $11 billion they lost through Ebbers' fraud probably explains the prosecution's hard-nosed approach.

Will Ebbers get all 85 years at his July 13 sentencing? I doubt it. Indeed, if the recent convictions of John and Timothy Rigas -- who received 15 and 20 years, respectively, of the 215 years prosecutors sought for each -- are any indication, Bernie ought to receive somewhere near six years. That's too bad. In my opinion, the life sentence the prosecution has asked for is exactly the sort of justice the victims of Bernie's sad song deserve.

More Foolish files on corporate crooks:

Fool contributor Tim Beyers thinks creating a distinction between blue and white collar crooks is silly. Tim held no financial position in any of the companies mentioned in this story at the time of publication. You can find out what's in his portfolio by checking Tim's Fool profile, which is here. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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