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Published: Friday, 3/19/2004

Martha, there's life after prison

BY EILEEN FOLEY

MARTHA, quit whining.

True, it s not fair that you re headed to the hoosegow for a lie

while the Prez s old Enron buddy Ken Lay, who cut off investors

and employees financial legs at about mid-thigh, is still

out there basking in assets.

Life isn t fair. A lie that didn t hurt anyone, even the feds,

shouldn t cost so much. But it does. How did your lawyers

let you get away telling it? The feds, frankly, would rather one

not talk to them than lie. Now they ve warned all of us to keep

our mouths shut in their presence.

A mistake could be as dangerous as a whopper with prosecutor out to make his bones.

Just remember, too, there are lies and there are lies. Democrats

lie about sex, Republicans lie about money, and President

Bush lies about a lot of things.

But they mostly lie to us, not to federal agents or the SEC.

Know, too, that the lie you were caught in, while a felony, is

venial in comparison to weapons of mass destruction and to

the chief actuary of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid programs

telling a $100 billion lie to Congress, at his boss s direction

and for the sake of his job. Your sentencing judge ought to think

of these whoppers when she sentences you, though your lie,

bad enough in itself, also obstructed justice.

The ban on acting on insider info exists to keep average

Americans from being undone by Wall Street schemers and

their pals like you. You must face up to that reality and that

they got you not on insider trading but for lying about it.

Had you played it straight, you d be all smiles today, and maybe

no poorer. The 10 to 16 months in prison you re likely to get could be

halved by halfway house time, but you ll have to admit the

lie and grovel some. The justice system hates for convicts

to deny guilt, even if it s true.

Seems imperious, and it disses the system, which gives juries

fi nal say. On the inside, smile, cooperate, and keep your imperial

perfectionism and smart mouth to yourself. The practice will do

you good then and later.

Be assured, there is life after prison. Ask Michael Milken, or

Jimmy Minder, who went from serial armed robber to chairman

of the board of Smith & Wesson. To be sure, he stepped

down once he was outed, but only because of its product.

There also is life after bigtime lies with legal consequences.

Just ask Bill Clinton. He has never had it so good.

Your future can be as spectacular as your past if you put your

mind to designing it wisely. You re a bright light in American

cultural life. Prison won t dim that. You will be a cultural

icon after prison.

And here s some wisdom from Scott Shepherd, a Toledo therapist

who teaches people how to take charge of their lives.

First, he says, don t blame others for your diffi culties. Denial

is huge, and it s a big help for anyone wanting to stay miserable.

See what you re facing as an opportunity to fi ne tune, to

perhaps see the world with new eyes. It s work, but what work is

more important?

A newspaper editor friend was committed to a New York

mental hospital after a suicide attempt. It took a few days for

her to work through her rage. Then she began teaching poetry

writing to fellow captives. She was such a hit her keepers

hated to see her leave, but they did. You could be that kind of

inmate. Go for it. No one can pull you down. You go willingly, Dr. Shepherd said recently.

The work of change and adjustment takes courage, he warned. People around you may not cheer. They may try to drag you down because they could manage the old you well.

Don t put up with it. Don t ask why me? There is no answer. Just deal with what is. A day at a time, or, if that s too long, an hour at a time. You didn t control the verdict, though you could have with a

generous plea deal. Its aftermath you can affect, but not entirely.

You have total control of your response. That will be key

to survival in prison and success after. No one martyred you.

You did it all yourself, sweetie.

Above all, over the next few years, no lies, no excuses, to

yourself or to federal officials in any form. The late Hank

Deuce (Henry Ford II) had it right: Never complain. Never

explain. Take your lumps and move on.

Eileen Foley is a Blade associate editor. E-mail: efoley@theblade.com



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