White Collar Time

root - Posted on 31 December 1969

Ex-CEO convicted of stealing fifty-five million dollars - gets 66 months

by Valerie Schwartz PNN Community journalist and Poverty Scholar

In October of 2000 on a crisp morning in the Tenderloin of San Francisco I was arrested (once again) for possession of narcotics. The undercover police rushed me with the tenacity of two defensive tackles in a play off game. Finding myself in the air with my thumb snapped back to my forearm in a submission hold; I was then placed in the back of a undercover white police car and taken to the hospital and then to jail, and booked. The D.A. wanted me to serve 19 years in prison for what was a two day supply of heroin for myself.

Robert S. Gordon, 43-year old ex-corporate vice-president for business development, of Cisco had already pled to insider trading and wire fraud but ran before his next appearance in April of 2002. He was taken into custody from a hospital in Santa Barbara where he had been admitted for an attempted suicide. "His conduct demonstrates that he knew what he was doing and he was acting out of greed." Scott Frewing Federal Prosecutor.

His lawyer said that his client suffered from schizophrenia as did Nobel Prize winner John Nash, somehow I sincerely doubt this. I would be more likely to speculate that his disappearance was for planning a legal strategy, possibly including a "suicide attempt." Maybe crime does pay sometimes, but for whom?

Gordon was convicted in December of 2002 for stealing fifty-five million dollars from the Cisco firm, although his lawyer had argued why would a man whose worth was valued at twenty-million dollars, a lawyer schooled at Stanford, financier, who had "volunteered to teach minority students in East Palo Alto" commit a crime like this unless he was "mentally ill." Someone might want to ask those who are locked away behind bars if a person from a privileged background can not only commit a crime like this but get away with it, versus a person who commits a crime of poverty. The math in these equations never adds up. Life for theft of a pizza? Whereas the theft of fifty-five million = sixty-six months.

Gordon has been sentenced to five-and-a-half-years while others in California are serving life sentences for far less serious crimes. The wake of Enron and other similar cases of white collar crime, I believe, gives credence to the old adage "you can steal more with a briefcase than you can with a gun." Nobody ever asked me about if I was mentally ill/schizophrenic in my addiction. For seventeen dime bags of heroin that the D. A. wanted me to serve 19 years, almost three times what Mr. Gordon has been sentenced to serve in a federal, minimum security prison... Sounds like Club Med to me.

Congress has ordered the Securities and Exchange Commission to develop a new professional conduct new rules specifically concerning the governing of corporate law and lawyers who practice before the SEC: to legislate and enforce tougher sentences of corporate criminals. That sounds good ...and justice for all... yeah right. Here is the catch: Congress says the new rules will require lawyers to report "evidence of a material violation" of laws governing securities by companies all the way to the top executives and the board. As I used to read in "Highlights Magazine" as a child, "What is wrong with this picture?" Yes, people should be held accountable and crime shouldn't be condoned, but what is wrong with this picture is that I do not believe that the attorney/client privilege should be abrogated. As this legislation and others similar to it, have already been enacted and have currently been revised: these laws are not in the people's best interests and the right to counsel, and the attorney/ client privilege should not be violated. I don't think this will be an effective measure in catching corporate criminals. It is more like another avenue detour down the road to fascism.

Lawyers are to defend: not to judge, nor gather evidence for the prosecution. The only thing that is brought to light as I think about this is something that Lynne Stewart (an activist attorney who has been indicted by the U.S. Attorney General for making a press release in behalf of a client) told me during an interview. Lynne said, " I said to someone once, I said...you know the attorney/client privilege is used more-- by like-- guys from Enron who are planning to file bankruptcy than it is by the criminalized poor, or the clients we represent."

I believe that even though corporate lawyers are not concerned about poverty or people unlike themselves very much they will have to start to understand just how the seriously they must defend the Bill of Rights while we still have one: not just for the misunderstood schizophrenic millionaires, who siphon millions daily as to line their own pockets and their lawyers. Soon they will be worried only about one law... martial law.

In the meantime, I am remembering how I tried to figure out the mathematical equations on the holding tank walls using my head as chalk, wondering about the ratio of incarcerated time of the rich to the time for the crimes of the poor. I believe that after Gordon's corrected mental state after being detained in a locked psychiatric ward for four months sounded suspiciously like a detox. Did I bother to mention that I was homeless pushing my shopping cart when I was arrested? Why was my crime more significant than that of Mr. Gordon or the boys from Enron?


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