WASHINGTON, DC: Corporate crime is not yet a capital offense under US law. But it might as well be, given the draconian sentencing of ex-Adelphia Communications chairman John Rigas and son Timothy (pictured).

Earlier this week the duo lost their final appeal to the Supreme Court against conviction on charges of securities fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud and bank fraud.

The court upheld the fifteen year sentence handed down to 83-year-old Adelphia founder John Rigas, almost certainly ensuring that he draws his last breath in jail. 

His son Timothy (52) – the collapsed company's former chief financial officer – has a slightly better chance of making it out of jail ahead of the grim reaper. He faces twenty years in North Carolina's Butner Federal Correctional Complex.

John, patriarch of the Rigas clan, is the son of Greek immigrants, who created Adelphia from scratch when in 1952 he bought the rights to wire the town of Coudersport, Pennsylvania, for cable television.

The firm went public in 1986 and rode the crest of the media wave throughout the nineties.

Accustomed to the autocracy of private ownership Rigas failed to adjust to the financial accountability necessary within a publicly quoted company, which he and his family continued to treat as their personal piggybank.

He is not the first to have made that mistake. And he is unlikely to be the last.

Data sourced from WashingtonPost.com; additional content by WARC staff