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Judge Setences Madoff To 150 Years


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

Extraordinarily evil - that was the judge's description today of the acts of Bernard Madoff. Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison for his monumental fraud. Applause broke out in the New York courtroom when the judge handed down the maximum sentence. The convicted swindler stood before the judge and his victims and said, I live in a tormented state knowing the pain and suffering I've created.

As NPR's Mike Pesca reports, that pain and suffering was evident in the court today.

MIKE PESCA: Thirteen billion dollars - that is the most conservative estimate of the amount of money Bernard Madoff stole. If the mind can scarcely comprehend a figure so large, the federal sentencing guidelines don't even try. Judges are advised to give the toughest sentences to those who have stolen up to $400 million. As Judge Denny Chin noted, the Madoff take is quite literally off the charts. But the most forceful number in federal court this morning was nine. That was the number of victims allowed to speak.

First came Dominic Ambrosino, a former corrections officer, a guy who used to be on the right side of the prison bars, as he said. Mr. Ambrosino's motor home is no longer for vacations. Soon after, Tom Fitzmaurice quoted his wife as saying, I cry every day when I see the look of pain and despair in my husband's eyes. Outside the court, other victims assemble.

Mr. IRWIN CANTOR: I'm a professional loser, yeah.

PESCA: Irwin Cantor was one of them.

Mr. CANTOR: I wasn't doing as well as I could've been (unintelligible). I went to a very dear friend and asked him to do me a big favor, and he did. And I got into Bernie Madoff. I still love the guy who got me in because he went down too. And there we are.

PESCA: Cantor was hurt badly, but not ruined. The court heard from some in his position and some who said Bernard Madoff robbed their entire savings. Michael Schwartz counted himself as lucky, at least compared to his disabled twin brother, whose ability to live in a good group home was destroyed by Bernie Madoff.

There was also Carla Hirshhorn, who said she was thankful that her father died before he realized that his wife's financial security was ruined. Cheryl Weinstein said, Bernard Madoff dresses like us, walks like us, eats and drinks like us, but underneath, he is a beast. Outside the courthouse, her husband Ron said they were so fooled by Madoff that they were proud when their son was hired to work for the man who would one day destroy his family's finances.

Mr. RON WEINSTEIN: We were taken by surprise, as every other victim. You would've never saw it coming. Totally a nice guy, understated, unassuming, fell for it lock, stock and barrel.

PESCA: Words tumbled out of some victims, others vacillated between tears and rage. This contrasted with Madoff's attorney, Ira Sorkin, who spoke in a halting and, at times, qualified language. As far as we know, Sorkin said, there was no ferreting away of funds.

When it came Madoff's time to talk, he rose and kept two fists balled on the table as if for ballast. How do you excuse deceiving your family, your investors and an industry you spent your life trying to improve? Then Madoff turned and faced the victims and said, I know this will not help, I am sorry.

Madoff investor George Nierenberg thought the reason Madoff spoke to the victims might have been something he said at Madoff's plea hearing several months ago.

Mr. GEORGE NIERENBERG: I called him Madoff. I said, Madoff turn around and acknowledge your victims. And he turned, he looked at me, but he never looked at the victims. In fact, today, when he did turn around and acknowledged the victims, I felt as if there was a satisfaction that I had actually penetrated.

PESCA: Judge Chin had the last word, saying he believed investor losses to be closer to $60 billion. Chin spent much of his statement utterly dismissing each argument the Madoff team put forth. Madoff's lawyers had dubbed the sentence beyond 12 years as having no practical purpose. It was symbolic. Judge Chin ran with that idea.

For reasons of symbolism, and to further the principles of retribution and deterrence and to keep faith with victims, Bernard Madoff was sentenced to a 150 years in prison. Because federal prisoners cannot be released before at least 85 percent of their sentences are served, it seems certain that Madoff will spend the rest of his life in confinement.

Mike Pesca, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Mike Pesca first reached the airwaves as a 10-year-old caller to a New York Jets-themed radio show and has since been able to parlay his interests in sports coverage as a National Desk correspondent for NPR based in New York City.