Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Try to Do as Much Time as You Can, Bernie

Seems that all the talk about plea bargaining, including a front-page headline in the New York Daily News, is for naught. The U.S. Attorney's office just charged Bernie Madoff with eleven counts of securities fraud and other felonies, and faces up to 150 years in jail. (To quote an old joke, the Shtunk, if he is upset about that prospect, should try to do as much time as he can.)

It's right here in black and white from the U.S. Attorney's announcement: "There is no plea agreement between the Government and the defendant." So evidently he seems to be moving toward a guily plea without a plea deal, as first suggested by the Wall Street Journal. His lawyer said today that he will probably plead guilty on Thursday.

I can't say I'm surprised that there's no plea deal here. His crimes are so massive, with Madoff himself as the ringleader, that I just could not see what he could possibly offer prosecutors. Who would he be able to rat out? He was in charge. He may be trying to protect his wife and other family members, but I can't see anything coming of that.

Plenty of interesting details in the criminal information, including a statement that the fraud began back in the 1980s. Lots of goodies, such as that Madoff siphoned off stolen funds toward his market-making business. One disappointment: no one else charged or implicated.

But the big news is that the U.S. Attorney didn't cut a deal. There's a letter discussing sentencing guidelines, but Madoff gets nothing from that except the prospect of 150 years in prison.

© 2009 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

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