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July 8, 2009

The "Bernie benchmark" already brought to bear in Dreier case

Right after last week's sentencing of Bernie Madoff, I explained here why I thought Judge Chin's decision to impose a sentence of 150 years really mattered for the federal sentencing system.  As I explained in this post, "though the choice of this magic sentencing number of 150 years — as opposed to 30 years or 50 years or 100 years — really means very little to Bernie Madoff, it could end up meaning a lot to the government and to some future defendants as a new white-collar sentencing benchmark."

This new article from Reuters, which is headlined "U.S. seeks 145-year sentence for NY lawyer," suggests I do not have too long to say "told ya." Here are the basics:

U.S. prosecutors on Wednesday asked a judge to sentence high-profile New York lawyer and admitted fraudster Marc Dreier to 145 years imprisonment or a term that ensures he spends the rest of his life in prison.  Dreier, 59, pleaded guilty in May to running a $400 million investment fraud involving fake promissory notes and he was released into house arrest until his sentencing on July 13.

While the size of the fraud is dwarfed by comparison with the estimated $65 billion disgraced financier Bernard Madoff admitted to swindling, prosecutors asked for a similar term of incarceration, the highest allowed by sentencing guidelines. Madoff, 71, was sentenced to 150 years in prison on June 29.

In a memorandum to U.S. District Court Judge Jed Rakoff, prosecutors wrote that Harvard and Yale educated Dreier, despite his advantages "decided to seek vast personal riches and prestige through a life of fraud and through dishonor to his profession."

The memorandum concluded that "a reasonable sentence in this case would be the guidelines' sentence of 145 years, or alternatively, a term of years that would assure that Dreier will remain in prison for life and forcefully promote general deterrence."

Dreier's lawyer Gerald Shargel suggested the judge give his client between 10 years and one month and 12 years and seven months in prison as an appropriate sentence.  Dreier is "profoundly remorseful" and has done what he can to make amends for his crimes, Shargel said in his sentencing memorandum.

Thanks to the folks at Main Justice and the New York Law Journal, which provides this additional coverage, we can all read the parties' sentencing memoranda ourselves:

July 8, 2009 at 04:56 PM | Permalink

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Comments

I am curious as to how 145 years can be explained on “general deterrence” grounds. Who can imagine the defendant who would be deterred by a 145-year sentence, but would not be deterred by a “mere” 30-year sentence?

I mean, most of the white-collar crimes comparable to this one are committed by men at or past middle age, for whom a 30-year sentence is a de facto life sentence. If the prospect of life in prison fails to deter someone, then they’re probably not deterrable.

I can envision a 145-year sentence for certain defendants on retributive grounds, but not as deterrence.

Posted by: Marc Shepherd | Jul 8, 2009 5:19:39 PM

Doug, Dreier's quite extraordinary letter to the judge regarding his sentencing can be reviewed here: http://tinyurl.com/kvp8kp

Posted by: Tom Kirkendall | Jul 9, 2009 10:18:26 AM

What is extraordinary about it? It strikes me as fairly common that, once caught, the criminal says that it all started small, he never intended to hurt anyone, he cannot imagine what possessed him to do this, he truly intended to pay all the money back, yada yada yada.

I don’t mean to suggest that he is insincere, only that I am not sure there is anything unusual about it.

Posted by: Marc Shepherd | Jul 9, 2009 11:41:15 AM

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