2 mins to read

Alternative penalties: the case for courtroom creativity

Instead of throwing the book at a white collar criminal, a judge asks him to write a book - 75,000 words worth.

Rod Vaughan
Wed, 11 Jul 2018

When it comes to covering their tracks white collar criminals are some of the best in the business.

Their creativity often knows no bounds, but now a US judge has outsmarted one of them in the creativity stakes.

And there could be some lessons here for New Zealand judges as they deal with the never ending stream of dodgy finance company directors.

US District Court Judge Ricardo Urbina didn’t throw the book at former pharmaceutical executive Dr Andrew Bodnar when he pleaded guilty to supplying false information to regulators .

Instead he ordered him to write a book, and reflect upon “the criminal behaviour in this case so that others similarly situated may be guided in avoiding such behaviour.”

And while you’re about it, the judge said, make it 75,000 words.

Sixty-four-year-old Bodnar wrote the book during two years of unsupervised probation and its now been submitted into the court record.

The 253-page manuscript outlines his life from his escape from Hungary after the Soviet invasion of 1956 to his run-in with the law over a patent for a blood thinner.

His lawyer says he drew literary inspiration from Dickens, Dostoevski, Conrad and Updike

The former Bristol-Myers-Squibb executive doubts whether his unusual sentence will serve as a deterrent to others.

“This hell is so particular that no judge’s order could ever generalise it,” he wrote in the book.

There are no plans for the book to be published although it can be accessed through the US Federal Court system’s Public Access to Court Electronic Records.

Given the activist element in the New Zealand judiciary it may only be a matter of time before white collar miscreants are ordered to put pen to paper here.

Imagine reading “Rorting Rod’s Rip-Offs” by Rod Petricevic, or the racy sequel "The Gin Palace, Spray Tanner and Me."

“You Can Bank on Me” by Stephen Versalko.

"I Wrote the Law and the Law Won," by Sir Douglas Graham

Who knows what hidden talent may emerge to entertain us in the years to come.

Come on judges - take a leaf from Judge Urbina's book.

Rod Vaughan
Wed, 11 Jul 2018
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Alternative penalties: the case for courtroom creativity