A federal judge slammed former Wall Street banking star Frank P. Quattrone with an 18-month prison sentence for obstructing a federal securities investigation, ruling that the investment banker lied on the stand during his trial.
U.S. District Judge Richard Owen also slapped Quattrone with the maximum $90,000 fine and ruled that the California resident must go to prison in 50 days, before his appeals are complete.
The sentence -- far harsher than the penalty meted out by another federal judge to domestic entrepreneur Martha Stewart for similar charges -- also includes two years of probation.
Quattrone and his lawyers vowed an immediate appeal based on what they said were Owen's unfair and biased decisions and said they will ask the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit to allow him to stay free until it considers his case.
"I can hold my head high right now because I know I am innocent and I never intended to obstruct justice," Quattrone said outside the Manhattan federal courthouse after the hearing. "I know we are going to get a fair hearing and we will win the appeal."
Once a top executive at Credit Suisse First Boston and one of investment banking's biggest names, Quattrone, 48, excelled at taking high-tech companies public. He helped launch stars such as Amazon.com Inc., as well as dozens of Internet flops that no longer exist.
But in December 2000, Quattrone learned that a federal grand jury was probing the way CSFB handed out shares in hot initial public offerings, and days later he sent an e-mail to several hundred subordinates endorsing a plan to "clean up" their files by tossing drafts and other documents.
Charged with obstruction of justice and attempted witness-tampering, he was tried twice in front of Owen -- his first criminal trial ended in a hung jury in October 2003, and the second jury convicted him in May after deliberating for less than eight hours over two days.
At Wednesday's hearing, Owen uniformly ruled against Quattrone, first denying the Los Altos, Calif., resident's request for leniency based on health issues involving his wife and his 15-year-old daughter. After questioning the seriousness of the daughter's problems, Owen brought up the family's wealth. "There's $50 million of assets out there to take care of Mrs. Quattrone and $26 million to take care of [the daughter] in some trust fund." The judge increased Quattrone's potential sentence by five months, finding the banker committed perjury on the stand when he testified that he did not have the probe in mind when he sent the e-mail and was simply trying to get his subordinates to follow CSFB's document policy.
The sentence was handed down in a rancorous hours-long hearing dominated by the judge, who tore into Quattrone's defense team, saying the investment banker's lawyers had "pilloried" him for previous rulings in the case.
"I'm not listening to you, because you are not addressing the court's questions," he said to the defense at one point.
However, Owen did agree to recommend that Quattrone serve his sentence at Lompoc Federal Prison Camp, a low-security facility between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Recognizing this in his remarks after sentencing, Quattrone said, "To my family in California, Dad's coming home. I'm okay. I love you."
A spokesman for U.S. Attorney David N. Kelley declined to comment on the sentence.
Mark C. Zauderer, a New York defense attorney not connected to either side, said the sentencing was predictable because Owen "is a judge with a solid, unwavering, pro-government point of view."
Other attorneys not involved with the case said Quattrone does appear to have some strong appeal issues. The U.S. Supreme Court decision Blakely v. Washington has cast doubt on whether judges can give higher sentences for factors not considered by a jury, such as lying on the stand, and the high court is expected to rule on that issue this fall. Owen's obvious irritation with the defense and rulings that appeared to give the prosecution more leeway than the defense may also give Quattrone grounds to ask for a new trial, they said.
"There are so many things that the defense is going to be able to point to where Judge Owen was not as fair as he could be. They are going to get the attention of the 2nd Circuit," said Michael J. Proctor, a Los Angeles defense attorney who specializes in federal cases. "I followed the trial, and I didn't think it was fair."