Monday, June 29, 2009
150 years (see here) - more than a lifetime is the sentence given to Bernie Madoff by Hon. Denny Chin. It was clear that the 12 years requested by defense counsel would never be a reality, and it was also clear that Madoff would likely spend the rest of his life in prison. But a sentence of 150 years sends a forceful message that white collar offenders can and will be punished harshly for fraud. Some interesting points about the sentencing -
- The NYTimes reports (here) that "Judge Chin pointed out that no friends, family or other supporters had submitted any letters on Mr. Madoff's behalf, attesting to the strength of his character or good deeds he had done." - Some white collar cases will have numerous letters showing the good qualities, charity work, and other deeds of the offender. But the usual letter-writers were the victims in this case. It is therefore not surprising that there would be none to present to the court.
- Madoff was given no credit for his remorse and no credit for pleading. He saved the taxpayers the cost of a trial, and clearly spared everyone the pain and time of making the government prove the case against him. The penalty of going to trial was imposed in this case, despite the fact that a trial did not happen.
- Giving Madoff the maximum sentence is not a punishment based upon rehabilitation or specific deterrence. Being 71 years and being given a prison sentence of 150 years leaves little chance that he will ever exit prison a free man. This is clearly a punishment grounded in retribution. From a general deterrence standpoint, a much lesser punishment could have been used for sending the message that this conduct will not be tolerated.
- Madoff was different from the usual white collar offender (see here), and that needed to be factored into the sentence, as Judge Chin did.
- But the remaining question still stands - how could this fraud have gone on unnoticed for so long, and why did it take government authorities 20 years to finally do something about it.