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Ebbers bids for leniency
Hoping to avoid life sentence, Ex-WorldCom CEO cites family, health and his own steep losses.
June 10, 2005: 5:27 PM EDT
By Krysten Crawford, CNN/Money staff writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Former WorldCom CEO Bernard Ebbers, facing life in prison for his role in the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history, sought compassion Friday from the federal judge who is due to sentence him next month.

In a massive court filing Friday, defense lawyers said Ebbers was "profoundly sorry" for an $11 billion accounting fraud that led to steep job and shareholder losses in 2002, but continued to maintain that the once high-flying entrepreneur did nothing wrong and does not deserve the severe prison term that prosecutors are seeking.

A federal jury in New York City found Ebbers guilty in March on nine counts that he helped mastermind the fraud that led to WorldCom's downfall.

Ebbers, 63, is due to be sentenced July 13. He is seeking a new trial and, if that fails, has said he will appeal his conviction.

The post-trial maneuvering by Ebbers is typical in these cases.

In his request for leniency, lawyers for Ebbers cite a number of reasons why the onetime motel owner and WorldCom co-founder should receive a lighter sentence. They describe, among other things, his devotion to family and his charitable giving, his declining health, and the personal financial losses he suffered when WorldCom's stock plummeted over time.

"As a result of WorldCom's collapse, Mr. Ebbers has lost everything," his lawyers wrote. "Unlike the typical securities fraud case, Mr. Ebbers did not profit from the scheme or 'cash-out' by selling his shares at inflated levels."

The statement was an indirect reference to former Tyco International CEO Dennis Kozlowski and his chief lieutenant, Mark Swartz, who are now on trial for allegedly manipulating the company's stock price and selling $575 million worth of stock and options to fund their extravagant lifestyles. A state court jury is now deliberating their fate.

Attached to Ebbers' sentencing request were 169 letters of support.

Like most convicted criminals these days, Ebbers is looking to a U.S. Supreme Court decision earlier this year for hope. In that ruling, the high court held that judges can consider federal sentencing guidelines to be advisory and not, as before, mandatory.

For former corporate executives facing prison terms, the Supreme Court decision was seen as providing a potential lifeline. After Enron Corp.'s late 2001 implosion helped usher in a wave of massive corporate fraud scandals, sentences for white-collar criminals were significantly increased.

WorldCom emerged from bankruptcy in 2004 and is now known as MCI. (Research)  Top of page


Bernard J. Ebbers
WorldCom Incorporated
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