• Judge Denny Chin, Bernard Madoff: Sending a message.


    In sentencing the fraudster Bernard Madoff to 150 years on the 29th June last – effectively a whole of life sentence – U.S. District Judge Denny Chin said he wanted to send a symbolic message.
    He has. That message is that the USA operates a criminal justice system that is savage, disproportionate and vindictive. Citizens and politicians in the USA regard their country as an the epitome of democracy, justice, liberty, freedom – the “American way.” In this they exhibit a combination of extreme naïvety and extraordinary arrogance. The USA has by far the largest prison population (per capita) of any industrialised country.
    “Here the message must be sent that Mr. Madoff’s crimes were extraordinary evil,” Judge Chin said. Of course he meant “extraordinarily evil.”
    When the judge handed Mr Madoff the sentence applause broke out in the courtroom. Outside the courthouse hundreds of people, including many victims and the news media, waited to hear the sentence. When news came just before midday, applause broke out.
    Mr. Madoff’s lawyer, Ira Sorkin, had asked for only a 12-year sentence for his client, noting that Madoff’s advanced age meant he has a life expectancy of only another 13 years. “A prison term of 12 years — just short of an effective life sentence — will sufficiently address the goals of deterrence, protecting the public and promoting respect for the law,” wrote Sorkin in a letter to the judge last week. He said his client was seeking “neither mercy nor sympathy” and recognized the “anger and resentment” in the victims’ impact statements, but felt they were looking for a “type of mob vengeance” that would “render meaningless the role of the Court.” Sorkin cited “death threats and anti-Semitic e-mails” as evidence of the hysteria and urged the judge to “set aside emotion and hysteria” and hand down a sentence “proportionate” to the crime.
    Federal prosecutors baulked at Ira Sorkin’s suggestion and demanded a 150-year sentence. “He engaged in wholesale fraud for more than a generation,” said Marc Litt, an assistant U.S. Attorney, in a note to the judge. “The sheer scale of the Madoff fraud calls for severe punishment.”
    This is not the longest sentence handed down in recent years to white collar criminals. In 2000, a New York businessman named Sholam Weiss received an 845 year sentence for a fraud scheme that took $450 million from an insurance company. Mr. Weiss is currently serving time in a high-security federal prison in northeast Pennsylvania. In 2008, a Mr Norman Schmidt was sentenced to serve 330 years in federal prison for his role in a fraudulent “high yield investment scheme.” Mr. Schmidt is currently serving time in a medium-security federal prison in Texas.
    For more information about Mr Madoff: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernard_Madoff

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