03.12.09

What Bernie's Thinking

The Daily Beast’s Allan Dodds Frank talks with Madoff lawyer Ira Lee Sorkin about how Bernie feels about his guilty plea and why he’s appealing his bail revocation.

Pleading guilty to 11 criminal counts Thursday was a great relief to Bernard Madoff, said his attorney, Ira Lee Sorkin.

Sorkin refused to comment directly on whether Madoff’s involuntary winking and tics as he pleaded guilty signified stress, but said: “I think he has accepted his fate and understands he may very well die in prison. This was a catharsis for him.”

“I think he has accepted his fate and understands he may very well die in prison. This was a catharsis for him.”

On Friday morning, Sorkin will file an appeal with the US Court of Appeals to spring Madoff—who faces as much as 150 years in prison—from the Metropolitan Correctional Center and allow him to remain in his $7 million East Side Manhattan penthouse under house arrest and 24-hour guard.

After US District Judge Denny Chin ordered Madoff remanded to prison, he immediately denied Sorkin’s request for a stay, and US government officials hand-cuffed Madoff and led him away.

Sorkin argued that the beleaguered 70-year-old financier, who again Thursday arrived at court unaccompanied by his wife or sons, is neither a flight risk nor a threat to the community. He contended that Madoff’s $10 million bail and home-confinement would guarantee that he would appear for sentencing as scheduled June 16. Assistant US Attorney Marc Litt has said repeatedly that Madoff must be deemed a flight risk.

Once Sorkin files his appeal, the prosecutors will respond, an appeals judge will decide whether to stay Judge Chin’s remand, and the appeals court—probably a three-judge panel—will decide whether it will review the ruling and schedule an expedited hearing.

Public opinion, as far as Madoff’s lawyer is concerned, has nothing to do with the validity of keeping his elderly client from spending another uncomfortable night in prison.

While Madoff’s guilty plea, in Judge Chin’s words, removes “the presumption of innocence,” Sorkin argued that is not the test under the laws governing bail. “We respectfully disagree with the judge,” he said. “We think there is clear and convincing evidence that Mr. Madoff is neither a flight risk nor a threat to the community.”

Allan Dodds Frank is a business investigative correspondent who specializes in white collar crime.

PREVIOUS REPORTS BY ALLAN DODDS FRANK ON MADOFF:
Off to the Slammer: Dispatch from the Courtroom
Bernie's Final Night of Luxury in His $7 Million Penthouse