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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, July 16, 2002

Will corporate cheaters join Lindh in prison?

The full weight of the U.S. justice system has been brought to bear against the hapless John Walker Lindh, who — infatuated with Islam — joined the Taliban and found himself unexpectedly facing off against American combat troops.

For his efforts, the young Mr. Lindh will face 20 years in prison in a plea agreement that avoided the possibility of a life-without-parole sentence.

Most people will have little sympathy for Lindh. But it seems clear that he got himself into this mess not out of a conscious effort to harm fellow Americans, but out of a confused sense of religious zealotry. He will have up to 20 years to decide if he made the right choice.

One wonders, however, whether the same vigorous, focused determination to put someone behind bars for a long time to come will be seen as the federal government moves forward on white-collar and corporate crime.

Untold numbers of lives have been ruined and fortunes lost because of the deliberate, rather callous manipulations of corporate insiders. Even under the tough new corporate reform legislation that passed the Senate yesterday, it is doubtful that few — if any — executives will face anything close to the sentence imposed on Lindh.

What does that say about our priorities?