February 23, 2008
Prison for the NatWest Three
Posted by David Zaring

We've discussed the NatWest three often on the blog, and it looks like they've reached the end of the road, with prison in Pennsylvania awaiting, and, they hope, a quick extradition to the UK.  The three made the mistake of sweetheart dealing with Andy Fastow - and the Times suggests that their indictment prompted his guilty plea.  Perhaps.  But the prosecution's "honest services" theory always looked shaky, though the bankers' conduct may have been a bit more self-interested than NatWest interested, as Christine noted here before.  I haven't followed the case too closely, but to me, it looked like an example of a meme: the prosecutions that follow disasters can reach broadly, sometimes unpredictably, and not always evenly.  Not everyone who dealt with Fastow on favorable terms is going to jail.  And there's a question as to whether the United States or NatWest should have been the entity sanctioning these bankers.

So why the plea, and now the sentencing?  I'm wondering if the White Collar Crime Profs think that the UK will treat the 18 months the defendants spent in Houston as time served.  It sounds like they think the defendants will be out of jail much more quickly if they are extradited home.

Update: Here's Tom Kirkendall's excellent blow-by-blow of the case - he concludes that the group settled because of the trial penalty.  Tom's post and other sentencing stories that I've seen note that regardless of the time served question, the UK parole process should cut the jail part of the sentences in half.

Update 2: And check the comments for Peter Henning's view - no on the movement restrictions while out on bail (probably, unless the UK is strange), 18 months total behind bars.

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Comments (1)

1. Posted by Peter Henning on February 24, 2008 @ 13:08 | Permalink

As I understand the U.S. Bureau of Prisons regs, the defendants will get credit for any time they were actually in jail, i.e. the day of their booking, plus any days while they waited to arrange bail -- I don't recall if they were released immediately after the initial appearance and arraignment. They may also get one day credit for the flight from the U.K. on the extradition. The time they were in Houston they were not incarcerated, so that does not count toward the prison sentence in the U.S., despite what one might think of living in Houston. So at least for a U.S. sentence they would not get credit for that time. I don't know the British system, but I suspect they would not get credit toward their prison sentence for time spent on bail, despite the restrictions on their movement. Thus, I think they will have to spend eighteen months+ total in prison (half the thirty-seven month sentence) if they are sent back to England under the prisoner exchange program. I don't claim to be an expert in U.K. sentencing and prison rules, so perhaps they would get credit for the time in Houston but I don't know for sure and rather doubt it.

I believe they could receive a pardon or commutation of the sentence from the British authorities, that depends on the rules for such things in the U.K. Scooter Libby got one for an "excessive" sentence that was seven months shorter, but then the NatWest Three never served in the White House.

peter henning

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