Five by 8 – 3/9/10: Should Petters get life?

1) Let’s play “You Are The Judge.” How much of Tom Petters’ non-crooked life should factor into whether he’s sent to prison for the rest of his life, as prosecutors would like? In documents submitted to the court that will sentence Petters for his Ponzi scheming-ways, his attorney asserted that the fact he wasn’t guilty of a violent crime should count for something.

In the Courts across the land, property offenses are given more lenient treatment

than crimes of violence. The latter group of crimes strike fear and safety concerns, while

the former concern something that can be replaced. The loss can be temporary. The loss

can even be edifying, a coming to terms. It is often said an auto-accident, At least no

one was hurt and no one died. Or this. Thank goodness we re still here.

For Mr. Petters a life sentence would say to him, it’s all meaningless now, what

you ve done will not be measured, your good deeds don t matter and never have.

The law ought not arrive at such a place. To do so would embrace the frailties of

life while ignoring its glories.

Find his attorney’s work here. Find the prosecutors’ sentencing recommendation here. Enter your verdict below:

Should Tom Petters be sentenced to life in prison?survey software

2) How do the people who work on the railroad all the live-long day learn how to work on the railroad? The answer from MinnEcon:

3) Former CBS newsman Dan Rather has stepped in it again, with one of the weirder quotes — even by Dan Rather standards — when he commented on President Obama. “He couldn’t sell watermelons if it, you gave him the state troopers to flag down the traffic,” Rather said.

4) A Georgetown Law School professor has banned laptops from his classroom, the Washington Post reports today. “This is like putting on every student’s desk, when you walk into class, five different magazines, several television shows, some shopping opportunities and a phone, and saying, ‘Look, if your mind wanders, feel free to pick any of these up and go with it,’ ” David Cole said.

Come on, kids. Focus. Another professor at another school tracked the grades of students who brought laptops to class and found they equaled the average grades of students who didn’t go to lectures at all.

Staged, but entertaining nonetheless:

5) Let’s go back to the Oscars for a moment. Both of the big local newspapers featured their movie-beat reporters yesterday — Chris Hewitt for the Pioneer Press and an AP reporter for the Star Tribune, each writing a list of the key moments of the evening. Question: How did they both miss this?TODAY’S QUESTION

Officials are getting ready to expand walking and biking routes in the Twin Cities. In some places that will mean closing off space to cars. Does it make sense to reduce car lanes for the benefit of bikes?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Drug options are dwindling for doctors to treat certain types of infection. The biggest challenges come from evolution, science and economic factors that hinder the technology behind drug development.

Second hour: What does it take to be a doctor? A new study examines what medical school students have the right stuff to be doctors. The results: a good student isn’t necessarily the best doctor.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: DFL Sen. Tom Bakk, chair of the Senate Taxes Committee, and Republican Sen. Julianne Ortman, ranking minority member of that committee, discuss whether the sales tax should be expanded to include a tax on clothing.

Second hour: U.S. trade representative Ron Kirk speaks to the National Press Club.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Does diversity training make any difference? Plus, the unlikely relationship between a former Gitmo guard and a former detainee.

Second hour: The author of The Devil and Sherlock Holmes talks about true tales of murder, madness, and obsession.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – What do military children experience when their parents come home injured or don’t come home at all from their deployments? Mike Mills’ 14-year-old daughter Kenzie struggled so much with her father’s deployment and she felt so isolated from the rest of her peers that she’s now being home schooled. When her father returned injured, she also had to learn how to help take care of his wounds. It was an enormous responsibility for Kenzie, and she had to grow up quickly at such a young age. MPR’s Ambar Espinoza will have her story.

From NPR: New doctors have accumulated years of education and debt – sometimes,

six-figures-worth. And don’t forget the interest. All Things Considered looks at the increasingly high price of becoming a doctor in the recession.

  • Gotta salute the efforts of a good attorney. In my Good Question segment after Bernie Madoff was sentenced, we did a story whether a scam should be as punishable as a murder. It’s an interesting issue.

  • MR

    Mr. Petters’s lawyer says, “…while the former [property offenses] concern something that can be replaced.” Is Mr. Petters’s lawyer offering to replace the property that Mr. Petters stole? Who does Mr. Petters’s lawyer think should replace the property that Mr. Petters stole? While he’s correct that nobody died or was permanently injured, that doesn’t change the fact that Mr. Petters caused massive, long-term harm to his victims.

    I’m not saying that he should be sentenced to life in prison–I don’t know enough about how sentencing works or what he was convicted for–but this argument seems like a cop-out.

  • bsimon

    Mr Petters’ former father-in-law committed suicide last week, allegedly/apparently due to some kind of involvement in Petters’ scam. If that is true, is it true to say that his crime was non-violent? That nobody got hurt?

    Having said that, I’m in MR’s boat: the judge should follow sentencing guidelines. If the question is whether to sentence him for multiple verdicts sequentially or concurrently, I’d pick sequentially.

  • Bob Collins

    I think that was Denny Hecker’s FIL.

  • bsimon

    Oy, Bob C is correct. I have conflated the Petters and Heckers scandals. Its so hard to keep it all straight.

  • JackU

    If Mr Petter’s attorney want’s to make sure that his good deeds are considered I’ll offer a simple formula.

    (R + N) – G = P


    R is the total number of years it will take for the victims of Mr Petter’s scheme to replace the money he swindled from them. Based on some agreed upon measure.

    N is a penalty factor for those victims whose life expectancy means the will Never replace the stolen money.

    G is some agreed on measure of the good works Mr Petters did, but only that work that was not concurrent with the scam.

    The result would be is time in Prison (P).

    Seems simple enough to me.