Former Major Sports Franchise Owner Joe Lewis Avoids Prison After Insider Trading Conviction Because He’s Old

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Joe Lewis, the 87-year-old British billionaire and former owner of the Premier League’s Tottenham Hotspurs, was ordered to pay a $5 million fine Thursday, but avoided jail time due to his “sharply declining health,” according to Southern District of New York indictment.

District Judge Jessica G.L. Clarke ordered Lewis, whose net worth exceeds $6 billion, to pay the $5 million fine and sentenced him to three years probation after he was convicted in a “brazen insider-trading scheme,” The Athletic reported.

Lewis, who pled guilty to an insider trading charge in January, passed on insider information from companies he invested in to “his friends and associates, including his personal pilots, as well as his personal assistants, romantic partners, and other acquaintances,” according to the indictment.

At one point he actually loaned his pilots half a million dollars each so they could quickly buy stock acting on insider information he gave them before the information went public, the indictment alleges.

He also conspired to hide his shares in multiple companies, according to the indictment.

The “deciding factor” in Clarke’s decision not to assign Lewis jail time was his rapidly deteriorating physical condition.

“You have before you a frail 87-year-old man with significant health challenges, whose conditions have only deteriorated since the indictment,” Lewis’ lawyer, David M. Zorrow, argued, according to The Athletic.

Clarke specifically cited his frailty as the reason she didn’t assign jail time. “It is clear to me that Mr. Lewis’ life would be at serious risk if he were to be incarcerated,” Clarke told the court, according to The Athletic.

Lewis, who eight months earlier strode out of the courthouse on his own recognizance after entering a not-guilty plea, needed assistance from his lawyers to walk in and out of the courtroom, the outlet reported. He was also allowed to address the court while seated after appearing to struggle with standing, according to The Athletic. (RELATED: ‘Oh, For F*ck’s Sake’: Shocking Audio Exposes Refs Botching Crucial Call In Real Time)

At the risk of sounding insensitive … can I engage in sprawling insider trading schemes and not go to jail if I pretend to be frail? I’m not saying Lewis is pretending. He may very well have deteriorated over the course of the trial due to the stress, in a purely coincidental convenient stroke of fate. After all, six different doctors wrote to the court to argue for leniency due to Lewis’ declining health, according to The Athletic.

But the wildly lenient sentencing sets a concerning precedent. Billionaires who want to pass inside info to all their friends can do so as long as they’re willing to accept the harsh punishment of *checks notes* probation and a penalty totaling less than 0.5 percent of their net worth. If that’s all it costs to commit multiple instances of securities fraud, sign me up!

Lewis’ company, Broad Bay Limited, did also have to pay a $50 million penalty, but that’s still a drop in the bucket for Lewis.