Softening Hard Time

Former Worldcom CEO Bernard Ebbers exits Manhattan federal court with his wife Kristie by his side following his sentencing, Wednesday, July 13, 2005, in New York . Ebbers was sentenced to 25 years for orchestrating and accounting scandal which bankrupted the once giant telecommunications company. AP

Well-known, well-heeled defendants became captains of industry on their way up and may have helped create a cottage industry as they went down.

David Novak is doing quite well as one of a few prison consultants providing high-priced advice to white-collar convicts, reports CBS News correspondent Richard Schlesinger.

What is foremost in the minds of Novak's clients? "Am I going to be OK?" he says. "Am I going to be raped? ... Am I going to be beat up?"

Novak won't name his clients but he was scene walking behind the former head of WorldCom Bernie Ebbers during his trial last year. Ebbers is now appealing a 25-year sentence for fraud.

So what can a man like Ebbers learn from Novak? His best advice for high-profile convicts: Lower the profile and blend in. It can be a tough introduction to a tough new life.

"In a corporate boardroom, I had a person crawl under a conference table, go into a fetal position and cry for 90 minutes," says Novak.

They may cry but these convicts have to learn new rules -- like don't cozy up to the guards. "That's an incredible faux-pas ... within the inmate rules of etiquette," he says.

Novak can help clients get assigned to the right kind of prison at the right place -- like a minimum security camp close to home.

One of Novak's clients, who did not want to be identified, said Novak knows the system so well that he even told him who the good guards and the bad guards were.

Former attorney Alfred Porro did five years for looting client trust funds and tax evasion, among other things. Porro didn't use a consultant but he wishes he did.

"It never occurred to me that I needed a consultant to go to jail," says Porro, who described his prison experience as walking into hell. He concedes, "I could have used one very desperately."

Novak learned his trade the hard way. "I made a couple of very poor choices," he says.

Novak spent a year and a day at Eglin Federal Prison Camp in Florida after faking his own death for the insurance money. The experience taught him crime doesn't pay. But wealthy criminals do provided you can make doing time even slightly easier.


  • Michael Wuebben

Comments

Follow Us

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.

On Twitter