Sunday, April 4, 2010

Denny Hecker Goes to Jail

Denny Hecker, the former Twin Cities auto mogul, is experiencing a perfect storm of legal needs. His businesses fell apart in the wake of the Great Recession, amid allegations of fraud concerning his dealings with lenders. His personal finances went Way South - resulting in bankrupcy proceedings. And his marital money matters took on the trappings of farce; last week, he faced lawsuits by his second ex-wife, for nonpayment of alimony, and soon-to-be ex-wife number four, for withholding key information and hiding assets.

Groucho Marx, Rodney Dangerfield, or any comedian worth his or her salt, take it away.

It's hard to find much empathy for someone who lived the high life for so long, and seems so unwilling to take responsibility for his actions. So it was perfectly understandable when Judge Jay Quam decided to give Hecker a taste of jail, to remind him of the importance of candor before the tribunal.

Four days in the Hennepin County workhouse left Hecker gasping for air. Sentenced to 90 days for civil contempt, after failing to comply with numerous court orders, Hecker was released after only 72 hours. The experience of jail for that long, he told the judge, was something "one would not want to experience in a lifetime."

If I were Judge Quam, I might recommend to Denny Hecker that he read Ted Conover's book Newjack, about working as a guard at Sing Sing prison in New York State. Connover recounts how, in the original prison building - built in 1826 by inmate labor and used until 1943 - two prisoners shared a 3 1/2 by 7-foot cell, at first with no central heating, open sewer channels, and little light.

Might Denny, by that standard, be a little pampered?

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