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As a criminal defense attorney, I feel that it is important that I blog about the sentence that was handed down to Ponzi-schemer Bernard Madoff.  You may have heard about him.  He stole some money from some people, got caught, and got in a little trouble.  Yesterday, at the age of 71, Bernie Madoff was sentenced to a prison sentence of 150 years for stealing about $13.2 billion.

Comparing sentences is tough because there are few crimes that match the pure financial destruction caused by Bernie Madoff's ponzi scheme.  Of recent memory, Ken Lay of Enron died before he was sentenced, but Jeffrey Skilling, considered by some to be the mastermind behind the Enron fraud, was originally sentenced to 24 years in prison.  In January of this year, an appeals court threw out the sentence and demanded Skilling be resentenced.  He will likely get between 15 and 19 years.  The Enron fraud, you will remember, caused investors to lose around $11 billion.  Like with Madoff, people lost their savings, their pensions, their retirements.

As a general matter, I don't like trying to compare corporate crimes.  I don't think it is useful.  I don't think I have the ability to say that Madoff's crimes were "worse" than Enron's.  Certainly they were more spectacular.  Old people lost money because of Enron.  Charities and schools lost money because of Enron.  Ken Lay served on public boards the same as Madoff and abused the public trust the same as Madoff.  So as a starting point, I am not sure that Madoff's 150 year sentence is fair considering Skilling's likely 15-19 year sentence.  Skilling was sentenced to 24 years at the age of 53, meaning he would get out at 78 (likely younger because of the resentencing).  If Madoff had been giving the same sentence, he would have gotten out at about 95 (or likely around 91 with the resentencing).  Either way, a 30 year sentence would have almost certainly ensured that Madoff died in prison.

The Skilling sentence is important for another reason.  Judge Chin, who is a terrific Judge, as well as pundits have remarked that the sentence was necessary to deter future crimes.  I think this is a bit of hyperbole and is really just meant to placate a rabid press and angry public.  I have never once believed that prison sentences actually deter future crime.  In fact, as a liberal, I often use this argument as an argument against the death penalty.  Many supporters of the death penalty cite it as a deterent to violent crime.  However, statistics have shown that this not to be the case.  Likewise, the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws in New York State should have been a strong deterent to New York'd drug trade.  Instead, you got incomprehensible sentences that filled our upstate jails with low-level street criminals.  The Rockefeller Drug Laws did nothing to deter the drug trade, but did everything to support an Upstate New York economy dependent on the prison industrial complex to provide jobs.

Deterence is not at the center of the Madoff sentence.  At best it is tangential, at worst, it is imaginary.  No, revenge is at the center of the Madoff sentence.  There is no rehabilitative purpose for the 150 year sentence.  It is purely punitive.  Some will say Madoff cannot be rehabilitated.  I am not sure I agree, but I am willing to concede the point.  There are criminals who are beyond rehabilitation and they deserve to spend their lives in jail.  However, once upon a time, prisons not only served the purpose of punishing people, but also attempted to rehabilitate them.  Is Bernie Madoff really so bad that he can never be allowed into society again?

What does this sentence say about American values?  People who commit Felony-murder, forcible rape, and various other violent crimes are often released back into society after served lengthy sentences.  However, take other people's money and you go to jail for 150 years.  I am not some anti-money person.  Like all the people who lost money to Bernie Madoff, I worked hard for my money and would be devestated, paniced and angry if it happened to me.  But if I called for the sentence that Madoff got, if I called for his head, if I called for the pound of flesh that was given by the Court yesterday, I would be a hypocrit.  After all, it was only money.  Money.  Rage, anger, vigalante justice. All over money.

I am not saying that I think Madoff should have gotten the 12 years that his attorney Ira Lee Sorkin was advocating.  12 years probably was too low.  Madoff did not deserve the low end of the sentencing range for his crimes.  However, I do think he deserved a setence that, if he were a younger man, would have allowed him to see liberty again.  I say this because I don't put much stock in deterence and I don't believe that the punitive purposes of the criminal justice system should so outweigh rehabilitative purposes.  But I also say this because once arrested, Madoff did everything right.  He turned himself in.  He admitted his crimes.  He showed remorse  He cooperated with government and saved them the massive expense of a trial.  These are all factors that a Court is supposed to look at in determining a sentence.  Indeed, these are the very factors that the government often uses to induce the accussed to plead guilty.  Plea early, cooperate, show remorse and you get the best chance to get a lengthy sentence.  Make the government work for it, and you can gaurentee that are going to seek the highest sentence.

What will the criminal defense attorney do the next time this type of case comes up?  Bernie Madoff got zero benefit from pleading guilty.  He had the means and the lawyers to make this thing last years.  Even if eventually convicted, his resources certainly would have kept him out of prison for a few years while this case rambled on.  Plus, if we know anything about the government, but really about defense work in general, cases can get screwed up pretty easily.  Just ask former Senator Ted Stevens.  The message sent by this sentence is fight at all costs.  If 150 years is the precendent for this type of crime, even after pleading guilty early and cooperating with the government, there seems to be no reason for a criminal defense lawyer to advise his client to do so.  I will let my client fight for the next 3 years, take his chances on the trial getting screwed up, and let him wear his ankle bracelet while he dines at Cipriani's.  

It is not my intent to justify the crimes of Bernie Madoff.  His crimes were awful and he certainly reaped devestation on many of his victims.  However, I am worried about what this case says about American values.  I am worried about what this case says about the justice system and I am worried about what this case does to the future of high profile criminal defense work.  The well-known maxim is that hard cases make bad law.  Whether I am lambasted and ridiculed for speaking out against the Madoff sentence, that is what happened here.  The rabid press got their prey, an angry public got their pound of flesh, and an upstate New York jail will likely get one more downstate prisoner.  But one year later, when the press has moved on to the next sex scandal, and the public has moved on to the next outrage, the only lasting affect of the Madoff sentence will be that bad law was made yesterday.

Originally posted to dmsarad on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 08:40 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    vcmvo2, JoesGarage, southriver

    "There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence" - J.S. Mill

    by dmsarad on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 08:40:34 AM PDT

    •  Whatever (0+ / 0-)

      I find it hard to be outraged about Madoff in a country that jails people for selling plants to consenting adults.

      There is no goal in the "War on Drugs" that couldn't be more effectively met by legalization & regulation.

      by EthrDemon on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 10:39:20 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  But that's the point (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        You gain nothing when you pick and choose when you are going to make the argument.  Sentences for drugs crimes are just as bad as this sentence.  Speak out against both.

        "There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence" - J.S. Mill

        by dmsarad on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 10:49:28 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Interesting, but is it true? (0+ / 0-)

    once arrested, Madoff did everything right

    He did plead guilty, in the face of overwhelming evidence, but I think that the government believes that he did not fully cooperate in disclosing all of his assets.

    Numbers are like people . . . Torture them enough and they'll tell you anything.

    by Actuary4Change on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 08:46:42 AM PDT

    •  Probably true (0+ / 0-)

      I probably over stated it a bit.  He probably didn't disclose all of his assets and he probably could have given more information about who else was involved.  Even so, he had the means to make this hell for the government and he didn't do it.  

      "There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence" - J.S. Mill

      by dmsarad on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 08:57:05 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That is NOT true. Once caught he proceeded to (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bleeding blue

        mail out jewelry, transfer money, and ditch other valubables.

        Specifically, the defendants sent a package containing a total of approximately 13 watches, one diamond necklace, an emerald ring, and two sets of cufflinks. The Government has been informed that that the value of those items could exceed $1 million. Two other packages — containing a diamond bracelet, a gold watch, a diamond Cartier watch, a diamond Tiffany watch, four diamond brooches, a jade necklace, and other assorted jewelry — also were sent to relatives. . . the defendant and/or his wife sent at least two additional packages (contents unknown) to the defendant’s brother and an unidentified couple in Florida.

        The wife was trying to ditch money:

        That may be exactly what Bernie Madoff's wife might have been doing before he was arrested. Ruth Madoff apparently withdrew $5.5 million from an account on November 25, and another $10 million on December 10. Bernie is apparently trying to paint a picture that he alone was responsible for the Ponzi scheme, but these acts by his wife might point to active involvement on her part.

        These two old felons were hiding and storing and sneaking as fast as their geriatric little criminal bones would move. THERE ARE OLD PEOPLE WHO ARE BACK WORKING BECAUSE OF THIS GUY. THERE ARE OLD PEOPLE COLD, HUNGRY, AND EVEN HOMELESS BECAUSE OF THIS BASTARD.

        Do you even begin to understand how hard it has to be to be old and maybe even alone, but regardless, now you're broke. All that you saved for your old age is GONE. Yep, it's only money. And they needed that money in THEIR old age.

        There is no way to rehabilitate a rotten bastard like this. None at all. He preyed on people and he sucked the assets they needed (in MANY CASES) for survival.

        If it was up to me, I'd have Gitmo'd the old bastard AND Ruth.

        •  So taking away the emotion (0+ / 0-)

          is your argument that stealing from old people should be punished more than stealing from young people?  Stealing from people's retirement is worse than from their paychecks?

          I appreciate everything you are saying, but I don't see it as legally relevant.

          "There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence" - J.S. Mill

          by dmsarad on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 09:45:58 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yes, stealing the retirement of the old IS worse. (0+ / 0-)

            The young, at least, have a chance to recoup their money through hard work and investing.

            How many people past retirement age have the same ability?

            You haven't just stolen their money, you've stolen years of their hard work for which there is no recourse and no recompense.

            THAT is why I think Bernie deserves the full 150.

            •  Not only that, but their last years on the (0+ / 1-)
              Recommended by:
              Hidden by:

              planet are harder on the aged physically and mentally. So what are they supposed to do? Start over? How? They're not young, not as physically fit, and don't have as much time.

              How does one go about starting life over in the twilight years? And who would they work for? I mean, I don't see many businesses out there making it a point to hire old folks. In fact, they're more likely to not be hired. And as for pay, do they start at minimum wage again? Yep, that'll build up the old pension fund, won't it?


              I appreciate everything you are saying, but I don't see it as legally relevant.


              To the OP (yes you): you don't see shit. May you go out the very same way these old folks are gonna go. Poor with no place to turn, and at a disadvantage to even help yourself. Maybe then you'll get a clue.

              •  Hred (0+ / 0-)

                no need to wish harm upon me because of my viewpoint.  If you want to make an argument, make an argument.  What you do is not make an argument, but prove my point.  Emotion clouds good judgment.

                "There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence" - J.S. Mill

                by dmsarad on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 10:53:11 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Answer my questions. Don't lecture. Your being (0+ / 0-)

                  dishonest and it's pissing me off.

                  Address your pitiful claim that he did everything 'right' after his arrest. I posted proof that you're full of it with links. Now deal with it.

                  Tell me who's going to pick these old croaks up and put them back on their feet. Some young guy on his way up (like you) is gonna say "hey, here are some honest old folks who worked and saved their entire lives for their old age and they were CHEATED OUT OF THE MONEY THEY NEEDED TO TIDE THEM OVER UNTIL DEATH. Why, I'll just donate half of what I make to them so they won't end up defenseless, homeless, hungry, and alone at the end of their lives." Like hell that'll ever happen.

                  There is no way anything I've done has 'made' your arguement because you don't have a leg to stand on in the ethics or intellect department. Nothing you have said would or could justify a lighter sentence for that horrible man. In fact, there's another ten who might be doing time someday. I hope they get 150 years as well. With no possibility for parole.

  •  A Thoughtful Diary... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    What does this sentence say about American values?

    Perhaps in our tight embrace of hyper-individuality, market forces, and our worshipful stance towards celebrity, wealth, and excess, that we obscenely value "private property" over our shared social needs. That, or we're just a vengeful people who demand our pound of flesh.

    Is that a real poncho, or is that a Sears' poncho? - Frank Zappa

    by JoesGarage on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 08:50:04 AM PDT

  •  Someone who did as he did... (0+ / 0-) likely incapable of remorse -- a sociopath.  Maybe remorse that he got caught.

    Deterrance is to me a red herring.  Justice is the focus.  And justice here?  Well, I'd add to the sentence.  How?  Tiny cell, out only one hour a day, walls plastered with the faces of his victims.

    The employed are the new rich.

    by dov12348 on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 08:58:56 AM PDT

    •  The tiny Cell is out (0+ / 0-)

      but the faces of his victims is a decent idea.

      You talk about "justice," but give no explanation about how "justice," whatever that means, was achieved here.

      "There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence" - J.S. Mill

      by dmsarad on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 09:00:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Justice. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Dar Nirron

        Punishment commensurate with the crimes -- destruction of a great many lives.  I read letters where retirees have lost all dignity with their loss of life savings, no money to see their kids and invading dumpsters for food.

        So to me, here, the 150 years is okay only because it can't be more.  And the number here has a purpose -- it communicates the gravity of the crimes.

        The employed are the new rich.

        by dov12348 on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 09:07:57 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Clarification: (0+ / 0-)

          And the number has an "additional" purpose...(aside from justice)

          The employed are the new rich.

          by dov12348 on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 09:09:35 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Money (0+ / 0-)

          So the fact the violent criminals get more leniency doesn't matter to you?  You have no response to my point that at the end of the day, it is just money?

          "There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence" - J.S. Mill

          by dmsarad on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 09:11:03 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  It does matter. It just means that that... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Dar Nirron

            ...justice for violent crime would need to be fixed too.

            Money is life.  Imagine your life with no money.

            The employed are the new rich.

            by dov12348 on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 09:24:06 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  money provides security and help. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Dar Nirron

            It's not 'just' money.

            Money provides security.  My friend had the money cleaned out of her bank account. She had money in her bank account and then suddenly it was gone.
            This wasn't simply a matter of learning to do without, this was a big danger.  How would she pay her rent? she had other bills coming due, not to mention how to lunch the next day.

            Maddoff did one better. He wiped out people's entire retirement savings. People in their 60's 70's or older who had depended on that money to live after a lifetime of work. They now have nothing and are faced with having to return to work at their age or face serious hardships.

            Non profits and charities had invested with him and now they were wiped out so they couldn't support the places that relied on them

            At the Alpert Jewish Family and Children's Service in West Palm Beach, donors linked to Madoff were unable to contribute a planned $85,000 to pay for child psychiatric care and a domestic abuse program, said Executive Director Neil Newstein.

            Some charities closed because they had nothing, which means people lost their jobs... during a bad economy.

            So this is much more then just 'money'.

            As I mentioned below, I think there are more cost efficient ways he could serve a sentence, but this is not the case of a few rich people having to do without champagne for a week.

  •  Madoff's crime is not just a "money" crime. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bleeding blue, Dar Nirron

    He stole money over many years in an organized and premeditated way. He took money from charities, knowing that it would all be lost. And he repeated these crimes over and over and over again. The amount of suffering he caused is simply far greater than the suffering caused by somebody who may have stolen smaller sums of money over shorter periods of time. If Madoff were a younger man, I still think that his sentence should have been long enough to keep him in prison until old age.

    I'm in the pro-Obama wing of the Democratic Party.

    by doc2 on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 09:03:11 AM PDT

    •  Right on (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bleeding blue

      If a kid robs a liquor store with a weapon, he would probably be looking at something like 10-15 years in prison. Repeat low level drug dealers are regularly sentenced to 20+ years in prison. Madoff repeatedly robbed his clients for 20 years! The penalty should be harsh, given the amount of money he stole. Giving him a short sentence would have make a bigger mockery of our justice system that it already is. Remember, he was not impoverished or just trying to feed his family. He lived the life of Reilly for most of his life by stealing. Just because he did it with a suit on doesn't mean he isn't as guilty as someone who robs a bank.

      •  But what does this mean? (0+ / 0-)

        To me it means that our sentencing structure is completely out of whack.  All you have proven to me is that the sentence for drug dealers is too harsh and serves no rehabilitative purpose.

        I think you under-estimate what it is to serve 30 years in prison.

        "There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence" - J.S. Mill

        by dmsarad on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 09:12:59 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  So why fix it for Madoff (0+ / 0-)

          and not for the other, mostly poor, mostly, minority, offenders? Why should it come up when a white, wealthy, guy gets caught stealing billions?

          I agree that sentencing is too harsh in general. The entire drug war has criminalized what is really a public health option and overcrowded our prisons to the breaking point. We can do lots of diaries on that. This diary is about Madoff and how he should be treated relative to the system that we have now.

          My basic point still stands. White collar criminals should not be let off easy because they rob you with a pen and not a knife or gun. He is essentially no different from someone stealing millions from a bank.

          •  If it is no different (0+ / 0-)

            than why does a bank robber get a lesser sentence?  Madoff got more time for his crime.

            And I am perfectly consistent.  I oppose the prison industrial complex whether for Madoff or anyone else.  Madoff's sentence is too harsh the same way that millions of sentences are too harsh.

            "There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence" - J.S. Mill

            by dmsarad on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 09:19:11 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I guess I missed your diaries (0+ / 0-)

              on prison reform in general. And I am not sure that serial bank robber that stole millions of dollars over 20 years would get a lighter sentence than Madoff did. If you have evidence to the contrary I would love to see it.

              How many lives did Madoff ruin? There must be a metric that takes into account the scale of his crime. White collar criminals in general get off far easier than street criminals. Its not fair and it impunes the majesty of the law (what is left of it).

              •  This is just hyperbole (0+ / 0-)

                Do I need to see how many lives he ruined vs how many of his investors simply lost some of their millions or billions.  And does it matter?  Is stealing 2 dollars from someone who only has 3 better or worse than stealing 10 million from someone who has 10 billion?

                "There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence" - J.S. Mill

                by dmsarad on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 09:44:19 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  spurious argument (0+ / 0-)

                  My point is that Madoff stole huge amounts of money. That should count for a lot at sentencing. He stole from charities. Many people lost all of their savings. He did it for 20 years. And of course you did not address the accurate analogy of bank robbery. Would a robber who stole millions from banks over a 20 year period get a lighter sentence than what Madoff got? Even if the banks still had some money left over? And you refuse to address the larger point. White collar criminals often get lighter sentences than street criminals, even though they steal orders of magnitude more money than a drug dealer sells of a petty thief steals. And they get often get to serve in minimum security prisons because they robbed people with a pen.

      •  addendum (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Dar Nirron

        Plus Madoff had lots of advantages that the typical inner city youth doesn't have, and yet he still turned to crime to acquire billions in wealth.

  •  House arrest (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I mentioned in another thread that I am dismayed that taxpayers will be paying for his room and board for the rest of his life. Since he is not a physical danger to anyone, I would like to see him under house arrest with one of those tracking bracelets and find a job outside the financial industry with the restriction that all monies earned over $40,000)(arbitrary), be forfeited to the government.
    It's unorthodox, but I like it better then him in jail for the rest of his life.

    •  alternative sentencing (0+ / 0-)

      I like the spirit of what you are saying.  Alternative sentencing is important, and many jurisdiction are starting to utilize it.  What you propose is probably a little soft for someone who stole 13 billion dollars, but your heart is in the right place.

      "There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence" - J.S. Mill

      by dmsarad on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 09:17:42 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Keep him in prison-- (0+ / 0-)

      but ALL of his ill-gotten gains are forfeit.  And that means what he transferred to relatives or foreign bank accounts or whatever.

      His wife can get a job, live on Social Security (if she has it), or be homeless.  That is what would happen to the wife of a thief who did a liquor store robbery.  Why should she have better?

      To say my fate is not tied to your fate is like saying, "Your end of the boat is sinking."--Hugh Downs

      by Dar Nirron on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 10:02:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not quite true (0+ / 0-)

        Any assets in her name would technically be protected from forfeiture unless it could be proven that it was the result of a fraudulent transfer.  Likewise, the Homestead exemption would protect one primary residence so she did not end up homeless.  The law is very careful to protect the spouse of a convicted criminal.

        "There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence" - J.S. Mill

        by dmsarad on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 10:19:19 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  What is frustrating (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    vcmvo2, EthrDemon

    is that we are supposed to be a liberal community.  We speak out against the death penalty, and the drug war.

    However, too many of us are class warriors, the logic and the rules that we use to argue about the criminal justice system are forgotten if the person committing the crime is wealthy.

    The argument that the punishment for white collar crimes should be as much if not more than non-financial crimes does not work for us.  Instead of arguing that Madoff's sentence was just because it is comensurate with what people think are equibalent violent crime simply means that we need to fight ALL sentences, not argue to increase those for white collar criminals.

    "There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence" - J.S. Mill

    by dmsarad on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 10:32:41 AM PDT

    •  It works for me (0+ / 0-)

      Until the fight for alternative sentencing gets going, I am happy to see Madoff go away for life.

      Sentencing for drug crimes (especially non-violent offenders) is totally out of proportion with the severity of their "crimes" (drug use/addition is a public health issue, not a solely criminal issue), but this diary is not about drug offenses.

      3 strikes laws condemn petty criminals to 25-life for crimes that net what Madoff spends for lunch.

      There is no rehabilitation happening in prisons right now and that is a crime against the inmates who have no skills to become productive citizens once they are released.

      The staggering inequality of our educational and economic system stacks the deck against the poor and minorities who have few avenues to escape their dire circumstances. Criminality is one obvious route out of poverty for many.

      Let's start the whole social justice ball rolling, after Madoff is in prison for 25 to life.

  •  Two observations in response to your thoughts. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    First, that in addition to whatever suspicions may still exist that the Madoffs haven't come clean about the existence of hidden assets (as some have noted here), I think an even bigger concern on the part of law enforcement may be that Madoff has not been forthcoming as to who aided his efforts to carry off his scheme.  It has been reported that there are ongoing investigations into "Madoff associates," and the primary suspects are undoubtedly family members. In addition to family members, Madoff had to have the assistance of others -- his lawyers, his accountants, and other investment counselors who steered clients to Madoff -- that Madoff could provide useful info on.  It will be very hard to accept that Madoff was able to carry off his scheme with absolutely no assistance from anyone.

    Having been fooled by Madoff so long, so often and so badly, even after the whistleblowers tried to alert them, you can bet the authorities are determined to make sure that he will not fool them one final time by throwing them off the scent of other fraudsters and fraud facilitators.  And I am sure Madoff could get his sentence reduced, perhaps even to the levels his lawyer was looking for, if he had useful information and was willing to give it up, rather than, as now appears, taking it all on himself on the premise that his life is over anyway.

    My second thought is that pendulums tend to do what they were intended to do:  they swing.  Not long ago, all the sentiment you heard regarding federal sentencing was to the effect that the financial crooks ruin far more lives than the violent criminals, or the drug addict/criminals, or those victimized by "three-strikes" or mandatory minimum laws for relatively minor offenses.  Yet the financial crooks were penalized much less harshly for their crimes, based on various questionable premises:  they've suffered a bigger fall, they've done lots of good things in their lives, blah, blah.

    The pendulum may finally be starting to swing back on these issues on both fronts.  

    Next term, for example, the Supreme Court will hear two cases involving life without the possibility of parole sentences handed out to offenders who were juveniles at the times of their crimes, one a boy aged 13 convicted of rape, another found guilty of two armed robberies.  In many states, long sentence schemes are being revisited.  Federal judges are mutinying against much longer sentences for crack than for powdered cocaine.

    With respect to financial crimes, the pendulum is also clearly swinging the other way.  Not too long age, those who committed enormous financial crimes, such as Ivan Boesky and Michael Milkin, served sentences of only a few years' easy time in "club feds."  The slew of frauds that hit around the turn of the century -- Enron, Worldcomm, HealthSouth, etc. -- provided the impetus to speed up the pendulum in the other direction, and Madoff put himself right in the path of that pendulum.

  •  What were Madoff's investors thinking? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The great puzzle of the Madoff scheme is why so many financially knowledgeble people chose to invest with him. Did they really think he was putting their money in the stock market at all?

    I can't help but wonder how many of Madoff's investors thought he was doing something crooked and were eager it get in on it.

  •  white collar vs "blue collar" crimes (0+ / 0-)
    If a burglar in your neighberhood was found to have robbed every one of his neighbors for forty years on an annual basis of $200 per month, he'd get at least 150 years.  All of the crimes would be looked at separately and he'd be charged with a thousand felonies.

    When you add that three strikes offendors who steal a piece of pizza end up with a life sentence;

    And marijuana users (and crack users) end up with 10 years for a victimless crime;

    Madoff's 150 years doesn't seem so bad.

    Just because white collar thieves have more resources to fight a conviction is nothing more than interesting.  

    the fact that you're right is nothing more than interesting

    by Egg on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 10:53:21 AM PDT

    •  You are wrong (0+ / 0-)

      Even if the robberies were treated as separate crimes, the sentences would likely be concurrent, not consecutive.  My guess is that if the robberies were unarmed, the guy would serve between 8 and 15 years.

      If Madoff's sentence doesn't look bad because of 3 strikes law and the war on drugs, the answer isn;t to excuse the Madoff sentence, it is to respond to it the same way we respond to three strikes laws and the war on drugs.

      I will also note that drug crimes are only victimless crimes if you ignore all the victims involved in the drug trade.

      "There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence" - J.S. Mill

      by dmsarad on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 10:57:40 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  no you are wrong (0+ / 1-)
        Recommended by:
        Hidden by:

        Where was this response before Madoff came in for sentencing? I don't remember seeing you diary on the unfairness of criminal sentencing until the white guy got jammed up. Why should we start changing the laws for Madoff?

        The reason the drug trade is so violent is that drugs are illegal! Illegality attracts the violent lawless people to rake in big profits because there is no legitimate way to get drugs. If a drug dealer cheats you and you are a user, you can't turn to the police because drug use is illegal. The violence problem has more to do with drug laws than drugs themselves.

        •  Give me a fucking break (0+ / 0-)

          Don't go around making ridiculous allegations that this has anything to do with race.  I spend every day of my life working for the accused regardless of racem color or creed.  Your statement is really out of line.

          "There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence" - J.S. Mill

          by dmsarad on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 01:00:41 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  And by the way (0+ / 0-)

          Go to 26 Cardozo L. Rev. 837 if you want to see an example of my writing about other sentencing issues.  Plus, I deal with it and fight it every gosh darn day.

          "There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence" - J.S. Mill

          by dmsarad on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 01:02:09 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  I may be "wrong" (0+ / 0-)

        but you're dreaming if you think a forty year history of robbing neighbors would result in a max 15 year sentence.

        And, if you are going to call on the great chain of victimhood as a way to justify sentences for individual crimes, well that's a dangersous thread to start tugging.. .

        the fact that you're right is nothing more than interesting

        by Egg on Tue Jun 30, 2009 at 11:43:35 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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