Judge: Prison has 10 days to release former WorldCom CEO

LARRY NEUMEISTER
FILE - In this Jan. 30, 2006, file photo former Worldcom CEO Bernard Ebbers exits Manhattan federal court in New York. Ebbers, the former top executive sentenced to 25 years in prison in one of the largest corporate accounting scandals in U.S. history was ordered freed from prison Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019, for medical reasons. (AP Photo/ Louis Lanzano, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — A New York judge who ordered the release from prison of WorldCom's former top executive, Bernard Ebbers, after he served 13 years of a 25-year prison sentence on Thursday gave prison authorities 10 days to free him.

U.S. District Judge Valerie E. Caproni said the U.S. Bureau of Prisons was authorized for that length of time to delay his release so it can make necessary arrangements.

A day earlier, she reduced his sentence to time served, granting his lawyer's request for compassionate release for the 78-year-old Ebbers. Prosecutors had opposed it.

Ebbers has been imprisoned since September 2006 after he was convicted in 2005 on securities fraud charges stemming from an $11 billion accounting fraud at the Clinton, Mississippi-based WorldCom. The company collapsed and went into bankruptcy in 2002, causing large losses to stockholders.

Emerging from bankruptcy in 2004 after moving to Ashburn, Virginia, the company re-branded itself as MCI and was bought in 2006 by Verizon Communications.

Attorney Graham Carner, representing Ebbers, said that he and the Ebbers family were hoping he'll be released as soon as possible.

“The family is elated with the Judge's decision to allow compassionate release, and are now focusing their efforts on getting him home and arranging for medical review and care once he arrives,” Carner said in an email.

The lawyer said the family was working with the Bureau of Prisons and the hospital where Ebbers was taken on Wednesday to coordinate transfer plans that will safeguard his health.

At a hearing Wednesday, the judge expressed concern that Ebbers, who is legally blind, had lost more than 50 pounds in recent months but medical personnel had not yet figured out the cause.

Besides heart disease, Ebbers has had difficulty walking, has fallen multiple times, and has also suffered from muscle loss, dementia, lack of appetite, fatigue and decreased strength, according to prison medical records.

“Mr. Ebbers is clearly experiencing deteriorating physical health as a result of the aging process,” Carner wrote in a recent letter to the judge.