When former pharmaceutical executive Andrew G. Bodnar pleaded guilty to white-collar crime in 2009, the judge didn’t throw the book at him—he ordered him to write one.
Reflect upon “the criminal behavior in this case so that others similarly situated may be guided in avoiding such behavior,” said the judgment from U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina in Washington. And make it 75,000 words.
The finished book, written during Dr. Bodnar’s two-year probation, has been submitted into the court record. His lawyer—who says he had never heard of such a punishment for a crime—says the former Bristol-Myers Squibb executive has now completed his sentence, in a case in which he was accused of providing false information to regulators. The charge stemmed from negotiations with a generic drug company seeking to copy Bristol’s blockbuster blood thinner, Plavix.
Dr. Bodnar, 64 years old, didn’t serve any jail time. He was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine and serve two years of unsupervised probation, with a “special condition” that he write the book.
Upon reflection, the former Harvard English major isn’t so sure his experience could serve as a cautionary tale for others.
“This hell is so particular, that no judge’s order could ever generalize it,” writes Dr. Bodnar in his tome.
Setting out to tell his tale, he contemplated the literary works of several greats. In a prologue he writes that he considered “Call me a Schlemiel.” Or, “It was the worst of times,” as opening lines.
In the book, Dr. Bodnar describes reading Dickens’ “David Copperfield” as a child. At Harvard, he wrote his honors thesis on “The End of Life in Dickens.” Other literary influences, says his lawyer, include Dostoevski, Joseph Conrad and John Updike.
The sweeping 253-page manuscript details Dr. Bodnar’s life from his escape from his native Hungary after the Soviet invasion of 1956, to his dust up with law enforcement over Plavix’s patent.
The Justice Department had a “mistaken belief that I had made a statement to the government that I knew to be false,” wrote Dr. Bodnar, who declined to be interviewed for this article. He wrote that the Justice Department “was not averse to destroying an innocent life.”
A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the contents of Dr. Bodnar’s book, or to say whether prosecutors had read it.
The book includes colorful characters like “a tough U.S. Attorney” named Chris Christie, who questioned Dr. Bodnar in connection with the Plavix case. The exchange took place just a few years before Mr. Christie would rise to national political stardom as the governor of New Jersey. Dr. Bodnar describes undergoing “animated and intensive questioning” from Mr. Christie.
A spokesman for Mr. Christie said Dr. Bodnar’s description of their interaction was accurate.
The book is told in a series of third-person flashbacks to his immigrant success story—as an eight-year-old he hid in a hay cart and dashed across a bridge to escape Hungary to Austria—juxtaposed with a first-person, behind-the-scenes account of the Plavix case.
The manuscript was electronically entered into the court docket in October, making it available through the federal court system’s Public Access to Court Electronic Records.
Dr. Bodnar currently has no plans to find a publisher, according to his lawyer.
It isn’t uncommon for judges to mete out unconventional sentences.
In April, an Alabama circuit court judge ordered a man accused of receiving stolen property to serve three days in jail for contempt of court for wearing sagging pants during a hearing. In 2008, a housing-court judge in Cleveland, Ohio, ordered a landlord accused of building-code violations to serve six months of house arrest in one of his dilapidated rental properties.
Since the 1990s, a municipal judge in Fort Lupton, Colo., has sounded off on teenagers accused of blasting too-loud music. His prescription calls for them to listen to the ballads of crooners like Barry Manilow.
Still, compelled authorship strikes some legal experts as highly unusual. “I’ve never seen anyone be ordered as a condition of probation to write a book,” says Brien O’Connor, a former federal prosecutor who is now a white-collar criminal defense attorney. Mr. O’Connor, who isn’t involved in Dr. Bodnar’s case, sees an element of “public shaming” to the sentence.
Judge Urbina declined to comment.
Plavix, used to ward off heart attacks and strokes in people with cardiovascular disease, is one of the best-selling drugs in history. The drug’s $6.8 billion in U.S. sales last year, as tallied by IMS Health, ranked second behind Pfizer Inc.’s Lipitor cholesterol pill. But Plavix will lose U.S. patent protection on May 17, which will trigger competition from generic drug makers.
Dr. Bodnar’s story hearkens to a time when Plavix’s success was in peril.
Another drug maker, Apotex, wanted to sell a generic copy of Plavix years before the patent was to expire. Dr. Bodnar, then a senior vice president at Bristol-Myers, helped negotiate a proposed agreement of patent litigation in 2006.
But the deal required antitrust clearance from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and state regulators. That is when Dr. Bodnar entered a new chapter of his life.
Dr. Bodnar signed a certification verifying with the FTC certain aspects of the proposed settlement. Later the Justice Department alleged Dr. Bodnar had made oral representations to an Apotex executive that weren’t spelled out in the written agreement—contradicting the signed certification.
In the book, Dr. Bodnar writes that he learned during a business trip in July 2006 that FBI agents were raiding his office at Bristol-Myers’s Park Avenue headquarters.
“Chaos reigns but, as I will soon learn, this is as nothing compared to the vacuum that is about to suck the air from my every breath for years to come,” Dr. Bodnar writes of that day.
A Bristol-Myers spokeswoman declined to comment on the contents of Dr. Bodnar’s book. An Apotex spokesman also declined to comment.
The proposed Plavix patent settlement fell apart. Dr. Bodnar left Bristol-Myers in 2007, shortly before the company pleaded guilty to providing false statements to the government and paid a $1 million fine.
In 2009, Dr. Bodnar pleaded guilty to providing a false certificate to the government.
Dr. Bodnar reiterates in his book that he believed the certification to be true at the time he signed it.
The process of writing the book triggered “intensive introspection” for Dr. Bodnar, says his lawyer Elkan Abramowitz.
Indeed, the last line of the book flirts with destiny: “I have my brief ready for submission to my next judge.”
By: Peter Loftus