Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Headline: Judge Falls for Bernie Madoff's Retirement Scheme

In case you have been hiding under a rock, Bernie Madoff has been sentenced to a 150 years in prison for his "evil" crimes. If the sentence sounds absurd to you, that is because Madoff will be serving the sentence on years he will be borrowing from people who don't understand how the stock market works. My guess is that Judge Denny Chin (whose name sounds like what you get from eating too many Grand Slams) assumed that the case was fictional when she read the amount Madoff is alleged to have stolen, and thus responded accordingly.

However, this sentence was a little on the conservative side for victim Burt Ross, who was hoping for Madoff to be sentenced to the inner circle of hell [as per the NYTimes article I cited earlier]. Though the sentence dwarfs the defense's plea of 12 years: with Madoff at 71, if he survives twelve years, he will probably be more of a financial burden than a threat. Admitting this the Honorable Chin, declined because it seemed absurd to give Madoff a sentence applicable to possession of a quarter ounce of marijuana.

So, finding herself through the looking glass, Judge Chin decided to eat the other side of the mushroom instead. My metaphor seems more appropriate with the language that was bandied about. In addition to references to Dante's inferno, Judge Chin claimed that, in addition to legal precedent, the symbolism of sentencing Madoff to a million years in prison was for "retribution," dismissing the acts as "evil." If you have ever watched a crime drama, you know this is a bad sign in a judge.

To be fair, nothing Judge Chin could have done would have satisfied me. White collar crime needs to be taken more seriously in this country, and to me (and the bottom line mentality of white collar criminals) whatever sentence would have come across as what it is: a life sentence to a prison where Madoff will receive better treatment than your granny receives in her old age home. However, booking him with a sentence that is usually associated with serial killers, after a trial filled with drama which would make Arthur Miller blush, sends just as bad of a message.

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