Risk Management

Former CFO Seeks Shorter Sentence

HealthSouth's Owens was highly cooperative with the prosecution, but still must serve five years.
Stephen TaubFebruary 3, 2006

While the individuals involved in the Enron trial take a Friday respite (the court is in session from Monday through Thursday), other corporate cases continue. For example, former HealthSouth chief financial officer William Owens filed a request to get his five-year prison sentence cut in half.

Owens is credited with cooperating with the prosecution in its case against his former boss, Richard Scrushy; at one point, he even wore a hidden microphone to secretly record conversations with Scrushy, and he later testified at trial.

Owens is expected to begin serving his term on April 3. He was convicted for his involvement in the health-care company’s $2.7 billion accounting scandal and was sentenced in December by U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn.

In a filing requesting a reduced sentence, Owens’s lawyer, Fred Helmsing, asserted that “anything beyond a 30-month jail term for Mr. Owens would constitute a glaring injustice,” reported The Birmingham News.

Helmsing pointed out that HealthSouth CFO Mike Martin received just one week in prison, while another onetime finance chief, Aaron Beam, recently completed a three-month prison term.

The attorney also said he took issue with remarks Judge Blackburn made to Owens when she handed down his sentence. Reportedly, the judge commented that “life is not always fair” when the disparity between Owens’s sentence and those of other former HealthSouth officials was brought to her attention.

“It is manifestly unfair to penalize Mr. Owens with a sentence that is grossly disproportionate to those given to the other high-level participants in the HealthSouth fraud,” Helmsing reportedly wrote in the filing. He also asserted that a sentencing should not depend on “the luck of the draw, with a defendant’s fate hinging on which particular judge is assigned to his or her case.”

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