MINNEAPOLIS -- The trial began before Halloween. The jury deliberated over Thanksgiving break. On Wednesday, it had made a decision, pronouncing former Twin Cities businessman Tom Petters guilty on 20 counts for a $3.5 billion fraud scheme.
"Certainly there's justification for retribution," Hamline Law Professor Joseph Daly said when asked about the upcoming sentencing. "A whole lot of people have been hurt. Normal innocent people lost a lot of money, all of their money," he added.
Two big questions remain following the verdict. The first has to do with sentencing, which is entirely up to the judge. The minimum sentence is 30 years; the statutory maximum goes up to 350 years according to prosecutors. Daly doubts if the 52 year old Petters will ever see the light of day again.
"I wouldn't be surprised if he gives him a sentence in the range of 50-60-70 years. I wouldn't be surprised at all, nor would I be surprised if he gives him the max and says that's it, like what happened to Bernie Madoff," Daly predicts.
As far as those aforementioned victims (the people who invested millions with Petters), Daly warns them not to be too optimistic. Minneapolis attorney Doug Kelley is the court-appointed receiver responsible for gathering what's left of Petters' empire and distributing the money to those victims.
"Often it is pennies on the dollar. If you're lucky you'll get 10 cents, maybe 15 cents on the dollar," Daly said. He also believes that it could take 4 years or more to gather and then redistribute the money.
One question that was answered today has to do with future court proceedings. Jon Hopeman, the attorney for Tom Petters, says their fight is "far from over" and they plan to appeal.
Legal experts say sentencing should occur in the next 3 to 5 months.
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