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Published: Monday, 3/21/2005

Jail time for Bergsmark

If Martha Stewart can do her time, so can Ed Bergsmark. The former banker and real estate businessman has managed to avoid for nearly two years serving his 60-day sentence for writing bogus checks and forgery. Another defendant convicted in connection with Bergsmark's forgery completed his 30-day sentence in May, 2003.

But Bergsmark has exhausted every legal attempt money can buy trying to overturn his criminal convictions and stay out of jail. And now that the Ohio Supreme Court has rejected his last hope by refusing to review his case, Bergsmark's lawyers claim he's too sick to go to prison.

They argue it wouldn't be good for his health to take the 63-year-old with diabetes and heart complications into actual custody. But that should be up to the legal system to determine through a court-ordered physical. If his condition requires it, he should do his time at the Corrections Medical Center, a prison hospital in Columbus. Another option, according to J. Christopher Anderson, an assistant county prosecutor who tried the case, might be the Lucas County Jail, which is near hospitals and other medical facilities.

Under no circumstances, however, should Bergsmark's jail sentence be circumvented by allowing him to serve his time at home on electronic monitoring. He has a debt to repay. "All we want is for Bergsmark to serve the 60 days that was ordered by the court," said Mr. Anderson.

The man has kept justice at bay long enough following his conviction. During that time he's been allowed to travel outside the state several times to visit family and for medical purposes.

His offenses were perpetrated despite repeated warnings from bank officials about his risky financial conduct. Despite the fact that Bergsmark was in default on loans totaling more than $11 million he kept authorizing checks. As a result, the former president and chief executive officer of the now defunct Cavista Corp., bounced checks everywhere.

Besides bouncing 12 commission checks to real estate agents of Cavalear Realty Co., authorities said Bergsmark wrote 144 other checks to agents, utilities, and businesses even though he knew he didn't have the money. His reckless behavior closed Cavalear and caused the collapse of Cavista and it 12 subsidiaries. More than 300 real estate agents lost their jobs.

Given the prison terms being handed down these days to white-collar criminals, the 60-day sentence given Bergsmark in 2003 does not seem particularly onerous. Had Bergsmark served it then, he could have gotten on with his life long ago.



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