When Michael Kimelman was rounded up with a large number of similarly be-suited folks for a crime he’d barely spent any time think about in law school, the normally unmerciful Preet Bharara showed a softer side: Plead guilty, and I won’t send you to jail with the rest of them. You won’t even have to cooperate or testify. Since you are the smallest fish among more than a dozen people I’ve had arrested today, I’ve got a lot on my plate at the moment and so would be happy to just put another name in my win column and move on.
Somewhat surprisingly, Michael Kimelman turned Preet down flat. And it was the last time he saw the merciful side of the U.S. Attorney, who made sure that, for his insolence as well as his insider-trading, Kimelman spent 20 months behind bars.
Why did Kimelman reject what now, as he serves the probation he could have served without first going to jail, must seem like a very reasonable offer, indeed? Perhaps he thought he could beat the rap; after all, he was one of the earliest arrests in the crackdown and didn’t know that literally nobody would avoid conviction at trial. Perhaps he really did naïvely believe that he was innocent of a crime, as he maintains in both interviews and legal appeals. Or perhaps he thought it was worth the roll of the dice. I mean, what was the worst that could happen? A few months in the white-collar minimum-security resort? If it was the latter, he now realizes the folly of his ways.
"From a societal point of view, I learned what an abject disgrace our prison system is (really the entire criminal-justice system). While I get that it's supposed to be punitive, I find it hard to believe that the American public would allow it to exist in its present state if they knew what it was like."