For four years in the 1990s, he did the same thing to his employer, a Denver laser disc- and DVD-distribution company called Lumivision Corporation. After pleading guilty to theft, Bill was sentenced in January 2000 to serve ten years in prison as punishment for the $900,000 he embezzled by writing corporate checks to himself.
But at a routine re-sentencing hearing three months later, the judge shaved two years off Bill's sentence after Bill apologized. Bill's exes, now the wiser, don't buy his apology. Neither did the Rocky Mountain News, which wrote a harsh editorial doubting Bill's courtroom mea culpa and criticizing the judge's decision. Here it is, in its entirety:
April 21, 2000
HOW SINCERE AN APOLOGY?
THE ISSUE: JUDGE REDUCES EMBEZZLER'S SENTENCE
OUR VIEW: EMPTY WORDS WORK MAGIC
If talk is cheap, then a courtroom apology is even cheaper.
However, an empty apology can be productive if it falls on the right ears. Such as those attached to Denver District Judge Frank Martinez.
Martinez decided Monday to lop two years off the 10-year sentence imposed four months ago on convicted embezzler William P. Sullivan, former accountant for Lumivision, Corp., a Denver film distribution company.
There's nothing wrong with a modicum of judicial mercy. But a mere four months into the sentence? And when the criminal has provided no concrete evidence of his remorse?
Lumivision was formed by Jamie White in 1988 to develop and distribute "special interest" films -- documentary, educational, foreign, classic and cult.
Sullivan was hired by White in 1994. At the time -- unbeknownst to White and his headhunters -- Sullivan was serving a four-year deferred sentence for theft in Arapahoe County.
Lumivision eventually went broke, and the trail led back to Sullivan. He was initially charged with five counts of felony theft, but four were dropped after he admitted to stealing more than $900,000 from Lumivision's checking account between 1994 and 1998.
According to evidence, Sullivan, who was officially earning $35,000 a year from Lumivision, paid $450,000 for a house in Douglas County and deposited $650,000 in a London bank.
During a routine re-sentencing hearing Monday, Sullivan not only apologized for putting Lumivision out of business, he also promised to help prosecutors recover the money.
Obviously White and the prosecutors hope he's sincere. So do we all. It's possible that in due course, he may actually produce some cash or other assets. Yet the signs are hardly good, and we can't quite figure out why Sullivan would deserve an immediate break even if he does help out. If Sullivan has been concealing assets, he should hardly be rewarded for coming forward now.
Sullivan comes from a wealthy family, and in July, when plea-bargaining with prosecutors, he signed an affidavit swearing he had a $3 million trust fund and $700,000 in two bank accounts. Since then, somehow, these assets have disappeared and according to White, Sullivan has made no specific offer of restitution.
We wouldn't strip judges of discretion, but apologies unaccompanied by restitution don't mean much, especially if there is broad speculation that assets are available somewhere. For that matter, can you imagine how a less successful thief from the other side of the tracks would fare if four months into his sentence he promised to make full restitution in return for a shorter sentence?
Of course you can. Which is why Sullivan should have served his full original sentence, too.