A news article in today’s Wall Street Journal chronicles that when pharmaceutical executive Andrew G. Bodnar pleaded guilty to white-collar crime in 2009, the judge didn’t throw the book at him—he ordered him to write one to reflect upon “the criminal behavior in this case so that others similarly situated may be guided in avoiding such behavior,” said the judgment from U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina in Washington. And make it 75,000 words.
The finished book, written during Dr. Bodnar’s two-year probation, has been submitted into the court record. His lawyer—who says he had never heard of such a punishment for a crime—says the former Bristol-Myers Squibb executive has now completed his sentence, in a case in which he was accused of providing false information to regulators.
The case involved a certification Dr. Bodnar made concerning the blood-thinning drug Plavix.
Another drug maker wanted to sell a generic copy of Plavix years before the patent was to expire. Dr. Bodnar, then a senior vice president at Bristol-Myers, helped negotiate a proposed agreement of patent litigation in 2006.
But the deal required antitrust clearance from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and state regulators. That is when Dr. Bodnar entered a new chapter of his life.
Dr. Bodnar signed a certification verifying with the FTC certain aspects of the proposed settlement. Later the Justice Department alleged Dr. Bodnar had made oral representations to an executive of the other manufacturer that weren’t spelled out in the written agreement— allegedly contradicting the signed certification.
In the book, Dr. Bodnar writes that he learned during a business trip in July 2006 that FBI agents were raiding his office at Bristol-Myers’s Park Avenue headquarters. (No doubt in their ninja suits with guns drawn.)
The merits of the case, to which Dr. Bodnar pleaded guilty, have been adjudicated. He served no jail time. Judge Urbina’s sentence seems to make sense, and, who knows, may result in some interesting literature. Many of the so called “white collar crimes” are better handled by the civil law or by such sentences. Most of those accused are not dangerous criminals, but productive citizens whose misdeeds, such as they are, should be compensated for by making use of their talents and abilities. Many of the cases prosecuted by our runaway Justice Department are strict liability regulatory offenses which do not require criminal intent as an element. (And I am not critical of just the political hack who is the current Attorney General; previous administrations including those of the two Bushes, overreached in this regard). So far, the Supreme Court has not definitively weighed in on whether a person can be a felon for inadvertently violating one of the myriad of obscure regulations. It has, however, wisely held that criminal violation of the Internal Revenue Code requires a “willful” standard; that is, that it must be prove that the accused knew it was a violation. That standard should be applied to all regulatory offenses.
Creative sentences are not unheard of, but the article mentions some noteworthy ones:
In April of this year, an Alabama circuit court judge ordered a man accused of receiving stolen property to serve three days in jail for contempt of court for wearing sagging pants during a hearing. In 2008, a housing-court judge in Cleveland, Ohio, ordered a landlord accused of building-code violations to serve six months of house arrest in one of his dilapidated rental properties. (I wonder if he could take his cat to ward off the rats.) Since the 1990s, a municipal judge in Fort Lupton, Colorado, has sounded off on teenagers accused of blasting too-loud music. His prescription calls for them to listen to the ballads of crooners like Barry Manilow. (Cruel and unusual punishment for sure; please take note, ACLU.)
For some offenses, I’d like to see the stocks and the pillory brought back. Only spoiled produce (re-recyclable!) could be thrown at the miscreant; no rocks or feces.
For the WSJ article see this link