WorldCom Flipper Gets 5 Years
Scott Sullivan, the architect of the accounting fraud scheme that toppled WorldCom, was sentenced today to five years in prison. He could have gotten 25 years, but he was rewarded for his cooperation in the case against former WorldCom CEO Bernie Ebbers, who got 25 years and will almost certainly die in prison.
Sullivan provided the only direct evidence at Ebber's trial that Ebbers knew of the fraud. But Ebbers testfied at his trial and while he did okay on direct, he didn't do so well on cross-examination. As I said at the time,
Why did Ebbers take the stand? With only one witness, Scott Sullivan, testifying that Ebbers knew about and endorsed the illegal accounting practice, why not just stick with an attack on Sullivan? When a defendant does great on direct exam, being questioned by his own lawyer, and then flubs it on cross, being questioned by the government, the contrast alone makes jurors think he's guilty. Just another reason why most defendants should not take the stand.
Testimony of cooperating coconspirators is purchased testimony. It is bought and paid for with promises of leniency, a commodity that is far more precious than money. There is something morally bankrupt about a system that convicts people and sends them to jail for decades based upon the uncorroborated testimony of these cooperating witnesses.
Whatever Ebbers knew or didn't know, if the only person providing direct evidence against him was a former participant in the illegal venture who made a deal with the government to provide evidence against Ebbers to save his own hide, we all lose.
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