How closely will the after-prison life of Dennis Kozlowski, former CEO of Tyco International, follow that of other famous white-collar criminals, including Michael Milken, Conrad Black, Joseph Nacchio and Martha Stewart?
Kozlowski, now on parole, will officially be released from prison January 17, it was announced Wednesday. He was convicted in 2005 of having perpetrated a $134 million fraud, in which he used Tyco as his personal piggy bank, buying such indulgences as a $2 million birthday party for his wife and a $15,000 umbrella stand for his Manhattan apartment.
Peter Henning, professor of law at Wayne State University and author of "White Collar Crime," tells ABC News that the after-jail lives of white collar criminals have little in common with those of ordinary crooks sent up, say, for having knocked off a jewelry store.
"With people like Kozlowski," he says, "there's very little danger of recidivism." Unlike the jewelry store thief, white collar crooks of Kozlowski's sort don't come out of jail desperate for money. They don't need to return to their old ways to make money, and usually are enjoined from doing so, even if they wanted to.
That's the case with Kozlowski. While the terms of his release require him to seek, obtain and maintain employment, they prohibit him from ever again acting in a fiduciary capacity. He can't even open a bank account or get a credit card without the permission of his parole board. "He's never going to be the CEO of a company again," says Henning.
A request to Kozlowski's lawyer by ABC News for information on the ex-CEO's plans got no response.
Henning says that ordinary criminals, after their release, typically have no problem admitting that they broke the law. Such candor is less common, he says, from high-level business crooks.
"Joseph Nacchio, former head of Quest, did time for insider trading," says Henning. "When he got out this fall, he said he'd done nothing wrong. You don't hear that with drug dealers or liquor store thieves. They understand they're criminals."
Likewise, he says, Jeffrey Skilling, former head of Enron, never acknowledged having done anything wrong. "And he's not lying," says Henning. "In his mind, he believes that."
He predicts Kozlowski will follow suit. "He proclaimed his innocence far and wide before going to jail. He admitted to having exercised bad business judgment, but not to having committed larceny."
A number of business ex-cons emerge as advocates for prison reform. The professor cites as an example former publisher Conrad Black.
Walt Pavlo writes a column on white-collar crime for Forbes.com and is author of "Stolen Without A Gun." When it comes to how such criminals behave after prison, Palvo knows: By his own admission he is a former white-collar criminal who served jail time after siphoning off $6 million from clients of his former employer, MCI.
Pavlo tells ABC News he agrees with Henning that there is very little danger of recidivism with white collar crooks. "The crimes that they committed—me included—were crimes of opportunity. Those opportunities will never present themselves again."