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Ex-justice Hathaway to begin prison term


Former Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway is expected to report to federal prison Tuesday. The prison sentence may not be lengthy, but the repercussions could last a lifetime.

Hathaway received a 12 month and one day sentence after she pleaded guilty to bank fraud in January.

Hathaway admitted she encouraged her bank to approve a short sale on a home, which wiped out more than $600,00 in debt.

Wayne State University Law School Professor Peter Henning says doing time in a minimum security federal prison, including the Alderson Federal Prison Camp in West Virginia where Hathaway will serve her term, is nothing like a state prison. But Henning says Hathaway's life will be very different.

"Someone like Justice Hathaway very much had control of her life. That's now given up, and that's probably the most difficult adjustment, and also the loss of privacy," Henning says. "It's a change in your life and how you're going to lead it. You can adjust to it, and prisoners do adjust to it. But it's a shock to the system."

He says Hathaway will likely serve seven or eight months in prison, followed by several weeks in a halfway house in Detroit.

Afterward, she faces suspension of her law license and possible disbarment. Hathaway could also lose her real estate broker's license.

Henning says judicial misbehavior isn't common, and most cases are related to treatment of litigants or attorneys.

"But judges are held to very high standards, and indeed Justice Hathaway is and was judged because of her position," Henning says. "So this type of crime is uncommon -- a very small percentage of judges. That's true with any type of public officials. It's the bad apples that get all the attention."

Henning says Hathaway's sentence reflects disparities in criminal punishment.

"If you engage in certain types of offenses that involve fairly small amounts of money, say an unarmed robbery of $100, and you have a record, it could result in very substantial prison terms."

Alderson Federal Prison Camp is sometimes referred to as "Camp Cupcake."

"In the federal facility, you tend to have less violence," Henning says. "There's minimum security. There are no armed guards walking the halls, where in a state system you tend to be put into a situation with much more violent people -- or at least a threat of violence."