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Days of Club Fed Over?

Aired June 6, 2003 - 20:34   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: When criminal charges linked to alleged inside trading were announced against Martha Stewart, there were some who said the government was just trying to make an example of her. Stewart says she's innocent. But, if convicted -- and it is still a big if -- she could spend time in prison.
So we wondered, what happens to millionaires who end up behind bars for white-collar crimes? What's it like?

Our next guest has been through it himself. Bruce McNall is the former owner of the NHL's Los Angeles Kings. After making his fortune as a coin dealer, he was found guilty of bilking several banks out of $236 million.

Bruce, thanks very much for joining us tonight.

I think a lot of people, when they hear about a white-collar criminal, someone convicted, going to one of these prisons, they think, it's going to be a cakewalk; these are camps. In reality, what's it like?

BRUCE MCNALL, CONVICTED OF FRAUD: It's nothing like that at all.

There's no such thing as a club fed anymore. It's a very unpleasant experience, to say the least. I think the most striking thing is the fact that it's -- you're in a barracks situation, for the most part. There is no privacy whatsoever. You have no controls over anything. You don't know what's coming and what's going. You're not told anything. Whatever controls...

COOPER: And you started in a minimum security prison, I think, for about six months -- correct me if I'm wrong -- and then moved to medium security. But you were in solitary confinement in that minimum security one. Tell us about what your days were like and the other people. I mean, that's -- how do you get along with them?

MCNALL: Well, first of all, I was there at the minimum security prison about a year. I was then transferred to what they call the hole, which is not exactly segregation. You're not alone all the time. You are also with other people, which is pretty miserable.

You have a 14-foot cell by 6, with six guys in there and a toilet in the middle. It's not a pleasant place to be.

COOPER: And how did they view you? I mean, you're a millionaire, a multimillionaire. I imagine they're there on other lesser offenses, drug offenses, perhaps, or the like. What did they do to you? What did they look at you like?

MCNALL: Well, you're somewhat of a celebrity, obviously. They know who you are. It's not necessarily a bad thing or a good thing. It can be one or both.

In my case, there was really not much in the way of benefits. Usually, whether it be guards or inmates or something, always somebody's asking for something, wanting something, information, talking to you. It's never -- you're never isolated. Let's put it this way. You're always with somebody.

COOPER: Let me ask, obviously, Martha Stewart has not been convicted at all. She says she's innocent. But if she is convicted, she could very well do some time. What do you think -- or what goes through the mind of someone who is facing doing time? I mean, tell us about your own experiences. When you heard you were going to have to do jail time, how scared were you?

MCNALL: Well, it's something that is -- it's something you can't even begin to prepare for. Really, your lawyers don't know much. You just have to find information, first of all. And that was my main issue. It's scary.

When you're a public figure, like I was, as well, you're also looking at, what has this done to your image, to your life? What has this done to the people around you? What has it done to your children, to your family? This is what things were going through my mind. And what is it like? I mean, is it in fact violent? Is it not?

COOPER: Right.

MCNALL: Those kinds of things are the things that go through your mind.

COOPER: And for someone who has had -- I mean, to be that successful, you had to have had a large amount of control over your life, over those around you. Suddenly, you're in a situation you have no control, people are telling you what to do. What is that adjustment like?

MCNALL: In a funny way, for me, it was OK. After a while, when you're so responsible for everybody else, and your employees, and how to make payrolls, and making sure everything is fine, all of a sudden, you have no control over everything -- anything.

In some ways, it's terrible, because when can you make a phone call? You just don't pick up the phone and make a call. When do you go to eat or sleep or get up or what to work or what to wear? Anything like that, you have no decisions whatsoever.

At the same time, you don't have the pressure of those decisions either. So, if you can take it in a positive level and just sort of sit back with it and relax, I guess that's the best you can do.

COOPER: Bruce McNall, appreciate you joining us tonight and giving us perspective. Thank you very much.


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