When serving a 150-year sentence you have a lot of time to either lament or complain. Ponzi-schemer Bernarnd L. Madoff has chosen the latter, going off in the New York Times about the judge who delivered his hefty sentence and made him "the human piñata of Wall Street," while other government officials and financial firms have been able to "walk away free." From the New York Times:
"'Maybe the judge felt, ‘Well, he’s 70 years old, so even if I give him 20 years, he’s going to be 90 years old,’ 'Mr. Madoff said by phone from the federal prison at Butner, N.C.
'But quite frankly, there’s a big difference with dying in prison, you know, and dying outside with your family.'
Judge Chin has said in recent interviews that he considered a sentence that might have allowed Mr. Madoff to be freed when he is in his 90s. But he concluded that Mr. Madoff simply did not deserve it, and in court called his conduct 'extraordinarily evil.'
Mr. Madoff, in a recent series of interviews and e-mails, took issue with the judge’s description. To characterize him as 'this monster and this evil person,' he said, 'I just think that was totally unrealistic and unfair.'
'In my mind, Chin was anything but fair, with zero understanding of the industry,' Mr. Madoff added.
He said the judge had made him 'the human piñata of Wall Street,' while financial firms and government officials 'walk away free.'
'Remember,' he said, 'they caused the recession, not me.'"
Not to give any vindication or sympathy for Bernie Madoff, but is it fair to say he brings some interesting arguements to the table? Is it in anyway just that his sentence may have been influenced by the anti-Wall Street environment of the time? The NY Times did a second recent story on Madoff's sentencer Judge Denny Chin:
"Judge Chin noted in the interviews that 20 or 25 years would have effectively been a life sentence for Mr. Madoff, and any additional years would have been purely symbolic. Yet symbolism was important, he said, given the enormity of Mr. Madoff’s crimes.
'Splitting the baby, to me, was sending the wrong message,' he said. 'Often that’s the easy way out, but as we know from the old parable, that wasn’t the right thing to do.'
The judge reflected on the fraud’s unprecedented scale, its duration over two decades and its thousands of victims. At that point, the judge said, symbolism 'carried more weight."
Anytime a judge admits to using symbolism in his decisions I cringe a little from the smell of possible judicial activism, or what Madoff says as giving into the "mob psychology of the time." Madoff, who did not appeal his sentence, is in a North Carolina medium-security prison where spends most of his days walking track and reading books.
"Mr. Madoff, now 73, said the thought of dying in prison remained very difficult for him. Yet, he added, 'if it wasn’t for the fact that I am constantly anguished about the pain I have caused my family and others, I could deal with prison life here at Butner.'"
Pain enough to lead Madoff's son Mark to hang himself in his apartment on the second anniversary of Madoff's arrest last December with Madoff's 2-year-old grandson sleeping nearby.
Do you think Madoff's a creep, got what he deserved and should shut up? Do you think what he did was awful but question if any white-collar crime deserves the same sentencing as serial murderers? Do you think he would have gotten the same sentence if he had not been arrested during a crippling financial collapse?