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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Madoff says he was surprised judge didn't 'suggest stoning' as Ponzi punishment

Two years after Bernie Madoff was sentenced for running a multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme, the disgraced former Wall Street moneyman said he was surprised that the federal judge who sentenced him to 150 years behind bars "didn't suggest stoning in a public place" as punishment.

“Explain to me who else has received a sentence like that,” Madoff whined in an interview that ran on The New York Times' website today. “I mean, serial killers get a death sentence, but that’s virtually what he gave me.”

In his first comments ever on Manhattan Federal Judge Denny Chin, the 73-year-old swindler said, "I’m surprised Chin didn’t suggest stoning in the public square."

Madoff's lawyer, Ira Sorkin, had argued that Madoff, then 71, could expect to live about 13 more years. As a result, Sorkin had asked for a term of 12 years -- “just short of an effective life sentence,” as he put it -- suggesting that Madoff could be allowed a year of freedom before he died.

In an interview with the newspaper, Chin said he understood Sorkin’s argument.

“It’s a fair argument that you want to give someone some possibility of seeing the light of day,” the judge said, “so that they have some hope, and something to live for.”

“And,” he added, “that was one of the struggles in Madoff.”

Chin said he rejected the idea of a 12-year sentence -- but pondered whether 20 to 25 years might be acceptable. He said he concluded that even that “would have been just way too low.”

“In the end, I just thought he didn’t deserve it,” said Chin. “The benefits of giving him hope were far outweighed by all of the other considerations.”

Chin ultimately imposed the 150-year term after Madoff pleaded guilty to all 11 counts against him in 2009, including fraud and money laundering. Madoff is currently serving his sentence at a federal lock-up in Butner, NC.

Chin, 57, recalls the unprecedented anger and shock surrounding the Madoff scam, saying giving him less than 150 years did not appear to be a possibility.

“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.”

On the weekend before the sentencing, Chin read roughly 450 e-mails and letters that had come from victims.

“Not just money: It reaches to the core and affects your general faith in humanity, our government and basic trust in our financial system,” he said. “The loss of dignity, the loss of freedom from financial worry."

Chin recalled that the lack of letters in support of Madoff was "telling.”

“A defendant should get his just deserts,” Chin recalled thinking.

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