Former Credit Suisse First Boston (NYSE:CSR) investment banker Frank Quattrone's gamble on a jury trial came to a close yesterday when he was sentenced to 18 months in prison for obstruction of justice. His sentence exceeded federal guidelines, as Judge Richard Owen deemed it clear that Quattrone had perjured himself before the jury in his first trial, which ended in a mistrial. It also far exceeded the recommendation made by the Probation Department that he be sentenced to only five months in jail.

Quattrone's conviction came on the slimmest of evidential reeds: a single December 2000 email in which he strongly recommended members of his staff to "clean up" their files, consistent with the firm's policy of document management requiring employees to destroy unnecessary files. Prosecutors claim such actions would have destroyed evidence in an ongoing investigation of wrongdoing in how Quattrone's group managed initial public offerings (IPOs) and doled out shares. Quattrone contends that he was unaware that his group was part of a wide-reaching investigation of CSFB.

Note what this conviction is based upon: a single email. None of the issues that prosecutors were investigating ever came to light as charges. Quattrone isn't going to jail for fraud, or for corruption, or for ripping off old ladies. He's going to jail for 18 months based upon a single email, one that didn't make any mention of covering up or anything of the sort. Even the added time for perjury isn't based upon a conviction but rather on the judge's opinion. You may rest assured that this will be on the table for Quattrone's already-announced appeal.

I have no sympathy for Quattrone. By the end of the bubble, he was no longer the hotshot who had taken companies such as Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) and (NASDAQ:AMZN) public. I believe that his underpricing IPOs and spinning conspiracies that ensured that he and his biggest corporate clients -- 12 executives from Openwave Systems (NASDAQ:OPWV) were on his "Friends of Frank" list, for example -- would get rich on the backs of a naive retail investing community is behavior befitting a two-bit criminal. He, of course, has a few more than two bits: In 2000 alone he netted more than $120 million in salary. He played by different rules and allowed his friends (and clients) to reap millions of dollars risk-free in exchange for their directing other lucrative corporate business his way. In a righteous world, a great deal of that money, if not all of it, would end up in bank accounts not his own. These are my opinions. And yet...

On the other hand, we have to face the fact that Quattrone is going to jail for a crime that is quite small, of questionable merit. His group's behavior may have been among the most overt, but we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that investment banks collectively have paid much more than $1.5 billion in fines to settle wide-reaching investigations into spinning, corrupt analysis, and a general breakdown in the wall between investment banking and brokerages. Were there real justice, our judicial system wouldn't just be focusing its wrath upon Frank Quattrone -- there would be dozens of folks with scheduled trips to the Big House right along side of him. For more on this, read our interview with (NASDAQ:OSTK) CEO Patrick Byrne.

In the end, I think that Quattrone's actions -- the ones he wasn't convicted for -- were abominable, so I'm glad he's going down the river. But I also have to wonder whether this wasn't a human sacrifice, an offering of the most visible personage of the boom-boom investment banking era, so we may all collectively believe that the wrongdoing has been somehow addressed.

It has not been.

Bill Mann jumped up and down about the damage of Hot IPOs in January 2000. He holds none of the companies mentioned in this article.