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December 30, 2008

Notable criminal justice echoes of the Madoff mess

The WSJ Law Blog reports hereon a notable Madoff mess echo that I had heard about from various persons working on criminal justice reform.  The post is titled "Madoff Scandal Threatens Country’s Criminal Justice Organizations," and here is the lead:

Earlier this month, the JEHT Foundation— a major financial supporter of the Innocence Project in Texas, among others — announced it would shut its doors in January because its prime donors invested with Madoff. JEHT, according to this Business Week article, is a six-year-old New York City-based philanthropy focused on juvenile and criminal justice, human rights, and election reform.

As detailed at this JEHT list of criminal justice grantees, many of the great organizations doing important sentencing-related work — like the Death Penalty Information Center and Families Against Mandatory Minimums and The Sentencing Project and the Vera Institute of Justice  — have received some funding from JEHT in recent years. 

UPDATE:  Speaking of Madoff and the criminal justice system, few federal sentencing fans will be surprised with the sentencing discussion in this Newsday article, headlined "If convicted, Bernard Madoff faces life in prison."  Here is how it starts:

Life in prison. That is the bleak prospect facing accused mega-Wall Street scammer Bernard Madoff, according to federal sentencing guidelines, if he is convicted of even a single charge of securities fraud in what is alleged to be the biggest Ponzi scheme in history.

With losses that may be running as high as $50 billion at Madoff's Manhattan-based securities business, the computation of his possible prison term in the event of a fraud conviction goes off the chart used by federal judges to compute sentences. If convicted, the only thing that could save Madoff, 70, from dying behind bars is if he were to cooperate with federal prosecutors and recover substantial sums of investor funds, legal experts said.

December 30, 2008 at 05:00 PM | Permalink


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No surprise at all he could receive life. If any theft ever should, it's this one - not because of who he scammed but b/c of the magnitude of the fraud.

Consider: In 2007 there were 9.8 million reports of theft, burglary and larceny nationwide totaling $17.6 billion in lost money and assets. Madoff nearly tripled that! There has never, ever been a theft this big. That's bigger than the GNP of Puerto Rico and quite a few nation states. The guy arguably was the greatest thief in history, with few peers even within shouting distance.

Happy New Year, Doc. Thanks for all your work on SL&P.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Dec 31, 2008 6:40:49 PM

I agree with Grits' analysis of Mr. Madoff's crimes. If anyone ever deserved a life sentence for white collar crimes, based upon the dollars of loss/relevant conduct, it is Mr. Madoff. To put the scope of his crimes in some perspective, the U.S. Government has recently agreed to put up $17 billion of loans to bail out Chrysler and General Motors. The $50 billion estimate of losses in Madaff is almost three times as large! Bernie Ebbers of Worldcom got 25 years, and the losses there were between $1-3 bill. Jeff Skilling of Enron got about 23 years, and the losses there were $2-5 billion. Sholam Weiss got 845 years from Chief Judge Patricia Fawcett in Orlando in 2001, where the financial losses were about $27 million. Weiss now resides in the U.S. Penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. But see, Weiss v. Yates, 2008 WL 5235162 (M.D.Fla. 12/15/08). If you haven't seen it yet, there is a hilarious, sarcastic blog about the Madoff case: it purports to be written by Mr. Madoff himself! Go to: "bernard-madoff-scam.blogspot.com/". On the blog, the "proposed punishments" section includes an even more severe suggestion: "daily waterboarding"! I am concerned that the liberal-minded Second Circuit might find that such a harsh punishment violates the 8th Amendment. Mr. Madoff is already 70 years old, so there are serious limits on how much society can punish him. A few years younger than Mr. Madoff, Kenneth Lay completely escaped punishment by dying (with a symbolic flavor, on the 4th of July weekend) between connviction and sentencing. Under Fifth Circuit precedent, Mr. Lay's convictions "abated" and were set aside, leaving the Government with no defendant and no forfeiture judgment or restitution order against Mr. Lay's multimillion dollar estate. The Madoff case will undoubtedly generate interesting legal opinions and provide encouraging grist for bloggers for years to come.

Posted by: Jim Gormley | Jan 1, 2009 10:23:39 AM

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