Saturday, March 07, 2009

So.... is Bernie Madoff Copping a Plea or Not?

So what's on tap for The Shtunk's plea party on Thursday?

The media had some interestingly contradictory coverage of the Bernie Madoff Plea-Copping Situation today. All everybody can agree on is that he is facing a "plea proceeding" on Thursday.

The AP reported that "a person close to the case, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the plea has not yet occurred, said Madoff was expected to plead guilty." A court filing yesterday, "was the latest sign pointing toward a possible plea deal with Madoff."

Sure seems that way. The New York Times had no source whispering in its corporate ear, but instead cited on-the-record sources on his waiver of grand jury proceedings:

Numerous former federal prosecutors said that such a waiver almost invariably signals that the defendant is going to plead guilty rather than go to trial.
“The defendant has to agree to the waiver,” said Thomas M. Durkin, a former federal prosecutor and now a partner at Mayer Brown. “If he’s agreed to that, that means he’s agreed to plead guilty — or at least, that’s what happens 99.9 percent of the time.”
And in return he gets..... what? Nothing in the Times or AP on that.

However, we get an intriguing tidbit in the Wall Street Journal. The Journal was cautious, saying The Shtunk "appeared to be moving closer to a guilty plea." It added the following on the question that has a lot of people boiling, which is the possibility of this insect-in-human-form getting a plea deal of some kind:

White-collar criminals often plead guilty with no deal in place, lawyers say. In cases where a defendant won't cooperate against other individuals, and the government will only do a plea deal in which it recommends a long sentence, "you might as well take your chances with the judge," says Christopher Clark, a criminal-defense lawyer and former prosecutor. By pleading guilty, defendants can argue they saved the government time and resources, and judges typically give them some leniency for that, lawyers say.
Aha! Now that's interesting. Bloomberg added:
As a result of any guilty plea, Madoff would have to explain how he broke the law, and Chin has authority to pose additional questions.
[Attorney Jacob] Frenkel said Madoff appears to be aiding the government in its investigation.
“There is no question that he’s been cooperating because of both the plea to the information and because his lawyer has said as much,” Frenkel said, referring to prior comments by Sorkin that Madoff is talking to prosecutors.
But that's not what the Journal says:

Mr. Madoff, who was arrested in December, has told prosecutors he acted alone in committing the fraud. But the government believes other individuals were likely involved and that Mr. Madoff may be trying to protect them, according to the person familiar with the matter.
If so, that sounds more like The Shtunk is obstructing justice. That's not what I would call "cooperation."

So I guess the bottom line is that we just don't know what's going to happen on Thursday. It sure would be nice if the reporters covering this for the dailies would just come out and say that.

© 2009 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

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