Bernie Madoff rolls into court and gets his medicine today. The spectacle has drawn a nice crowd. Madoff’s lawyer has “recommended” a 12-year sentence; prosecutors recommend 150 years; Madoff’s victims recommend he be slathered in ground beef and thrown into a bear pit. “This isn’t a guy who murdered people, who raped people or who sexually abused children,” says a sympathetic lawyer. “… when you climb down through the hysteria, we don’t generally give life sentences to people who steal a lot of money.” On the other hand, even Elie Wiesel hates the guy. The master criminal is in court now; we’ll come back when the sentence is out.
Update: Victims are reading statements. “Bernard Madoff’s jail cell should become his coffin,” says one. We have never liked this victim-statement innovation in American courts, as it reminds us of show trials and the public criticisms popular during China’s Cultural Revolution, and nothing in today’s session is likely to change our minds.
Update 2: Now Madoff’s giving his statement: “I am in torment over the pain I have caused,” etc. We’re thinking: he’s 71 years old. Why’s he going out like this? Monsieur Verdoux would seem a more dignified model.
Update 3: 150 years! Even Johnny 99 got a better break. The judge noted that not even Madoff’s family submitted letters on his behalf, which he found “telling.” Let that be a lesson to you — pay people to write nice things about you! And have them leave the date blank!
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on June 29, 2009