Judge Barbara Jones of U.S. District Court in Manhattan handed out the sentence three years after WorldCom collapsed in an $11 billion accounting fraud, wiping out billions of investor dollars.
"I find that a sentence of anything less would not reflect the seriousness of this crime," Jones said. Jones ordered the 63-year-old Ebbers to report to prison on Oct. 12. She said she would recommend Ebbers to the federal prison in Yazoo City, Miss., close to his home.
Ebbers did not address the judge and showed no discernible reaction. His wife, Kristie Ebbers, cried quietly.
Jones said Ebbers deserved a stiff sentence because he was a leader of the epic accounting fraud that toppled the telecom giant.
"Mr. Ebbers was the instigator of the fraud," said U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones as she prepared to pronounce his sentence.
Jones said she believed federal guidelines called for a sentence of between 30 years and life in prison.
Jones spoke shortly after a former employee told the court how his life was destroyed by Ebbers' greed.
Henry J. Bruen Jr., 37, a former salesman, said at Ebbers' sentencing hearing that the company's collapse three years ago caused him "untold human carnage" and put him through "sheer hell." He lost all of his savings and couldn't get another sales job.
CBSNews.com Legal Analyst Andrew Cohen reports Ebbers' sentence is unlikely to be reversed. "This is in the middle-to-high range of sentencing options and the judge was within her discretion to hand down such a tough sentence given the enormity of the financial crimes here," Cohen said.
"Ebbers' only chance now to get out of prison soon is to convince the appellate courts that his trial judge made a fundamental mistake during the course of his trial," Cohen said. "That rarely occurs, and it's not at all clear that it occurred here, although the defense has a few decent issues it can raise before a federal appeals panel."