Since at first blush, it may sound odd for a criminal defense lawyer to seemingly defend the admittedly high sentence given to Jeffrey Skilling, let me make this clear from the outset: I’m talking about putting this punishment in perspective with others routinely given out to “blue collar defendants”.

Remember the 60 Minutes story on Leandro Andrade, who stole $153.54 worth of videotapes from Kmart? The Supreme Court upheld his two consecutive 25 to life sentences in Lockyer vs. Andrade.

True, in part the Supreme Court concluded this did not violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment because of Andrade’s prior criminal history.

But, if you find Skilling’s punishment obscenely disproportionate to the crime, ask yourself this: If we were able to combine Andrade’s lifetime of thefts, including the ones he probably never was arrested for, would the aggregate value of the victim’s losses even come close to the financial disaster that Skilling’s crimes caused?

Skilling’s convictions for fraud, conspiracy and insider trading are all, at their core, basically theft offenses. One huge theft offense, that it took several years to commit. With thousands upon thousands of victims.

Let’s focus on more appropriate(i.e. lower) punishments for repeat but small time theft offenders, before we shed any more tears for Jeffrey Skilling.

(I’m looking forward to the legal blogosphere’s reaction…alos, I’ll probably have more to say on the actual subject in the next few days.)