article

07.08.09

Bernie: I Won't Appeal

One hundred fifty years it is! In a Daily Beast exclusive, Allan Dodds Frank reports that the Ponzi king won’t appeal his record prison sentence. Plus, how he’s holding up in prison and his visit from Ruth.

Bernard Madoff has decided not to appeal the 150-year prison term he received June 29 from U.S. District Judge Denny Chin.

Madoff’s lawyer, Ira Lee “Ike” Sorkin, tells The Daily Beast no appeal will be filed unless Madoff changes his mind on Thursday during a meeting with Sorkin at the Metropolitan Correctional Center.

“If the court were to say, ‘150 years is excessive, but 40 years is not,’ what’s the point? He understands his future.”

Sorkin said he had met with the 71-year-old Monday and they had reached the decision not to appeal despite a strong legal argument that Judge Chin may have overreached by declaring the 150-year maximum “symbolic.”

“It looks like we will not appeal,” Sorkin said. “If the court were to say, ‘150 years is excessive, but 40 years is not,’ what’s the point? He understands his future. He is not going to walk out of prison at age 106.”

Sorkin predicted the Second Circuit Court of Appeals would almost certainly find a stiff penalty well within reason for Madoff, who pleaded guilty to 11 felony counts and a conspiracy that exceeded $13 billion and may have been more than $50 billion.

“There is no such thing that a sentence is symbolic,” said Sorkin. “Still, [former WorldCom CEO] Bernie Ebbers got 25 years and [former Enron CEO] Jeff Skilling got 24 years. There is no doubt the Court of Appeals would endorse a substantial penalty, so 30 years or 40 years would not be ridiculous. So even if he got 15 percent time off for good behavior and could walk out at 98, again, what’s the point?”

The lawyer declined to be specific about Madoff’s thinking, including about whether money for an appeal would just be wasted. “I can’t get into the decision-making process,” he said.

Madoff also continues to decline all interview requests, said Sorkin. He added that Madoff’s wife, Ruth, has visited him since the sentencing. On Monday, Judge Chin ruled that Ruth could get her passport back from the government, a move widely interpreted to mean there will be no criminal prosecution of Madoff’s life partner.

“The fact that there has been a resolution concerning his wife is of great satisfaction to him,” said Sorkin.

Part of the sentence against Bernard Madoff included a forfeiture agreement that extinguished Ruth Madoff’s claims to nearly $85 million in cash and property while allowing her to get access to $2.5 million. The agreement precludes the Justice Department from seeking that $2.5 million from Ruth Madoff, although it still could be a target for other litigators.

Bernard Madoff “is doing OK,” said Sorkin. “He understands there has been closure.” And, said Sorkin, “He has felt ashamed and upset about his victims since Day 1.”

While more than 8,000 claims have been filed by victims of Madoff, and the bankruptcy trustee told Judge Chin that Madoff had not provided meaningful co-operation, Sorkin continues to insist that is not the case, despite Madoff’s unwillingness to finger co-conspirators.

“Our position is,” said Sorkin, “that he provided the government with all the information he had about all of his assets.”

Madoff had originally contacted Sorkin in early December about explaining his problem and set up a meeting with the Dickstein Shapiro lawyer for mid-December. Before that meeting, however, Madoff on December 10 confessed his fraud to his sons, Mark and Andrew, and his brother, Peter. The next day, FBI agents arrested Madoff in the $7 million East Side Manhattan penthouse where he and Ruth lived until the U.S. Marshals Service seized it on the day of his sentencing, June 29.

Now assigned to what amounts to solitary confinement in downtown Manhattan, Madoff awaits assignment to a high-security federal facility by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

Allan Dodds Frank is a business investigative correspondent who specializes in white-collar crime. He also is president of the Overseas Press Club of America, one of the many journalism organizations that protests the arrests of journalists abroad and repression of freedom of speech.