SYMBOLISM OF SENTENCE
Chin spoke at length about the symbolism of meting out a sentence that will far exceed Madoff's lifetime.
He said the 150-year sentence -- the term sought by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lisa A. Baroni and Marc O. Litt -- was important for "retribution," as Madoff must be "punished according to his moral culpability."
The sentence was also important for purposes of deterrence and for satisfaction for the victims, the judge said.
Chin said the victims ranged from pension funds to the elderly, from charitable institutions to "middle-class folks" who based critical decisions such as home purchases, retirement planning and their children's education on promises made by Madoff.
"I was particularly struck by one story," Chin said, that of a widow whose husband had invested with Madoff. The widow visited Madoff at his office two weeks after her husband's death to express concern about her future.
"He put his arm around her and, in a kindly manner, told her not to worry, your money is safe with me," Chin said.
The judge disagreed with defense attorney Ira Lee Sorkin, who in a pre-sentencing submission said that some of the victim's letters, coupled with the "hysteria" over Madoff's crimes, conveyed the sense that people were seeking a form of "mob vengeance."
"Rather," the victims "are doing what they are supposed to be doing, putting their faith in our system of justice," Chin said in the courtroom.
Sorkin, who had little to work with, tried and failed to convince the judge that a sentence of 12 years, which would approximate Madoff's life expectancy, or one of 15 to 20 years, would be "sufficient but not greater than necessary" to meet the purposes of sentencing.
Sorkin, of Dickstein Shapiro, told the court that his client "stepped forward" to admit his crimes, and is "still assisting the government" in recovering assets.
His cause was not helped by a letter sent to the judge Monday from David J. Sheehan of Baker Hostetler, the attorney for Irving H. Picard, the trustee for the Madoff bankruptcy.
Sheehan said, "I write to advise the court that Madoff has not provided any meaningful cooperation or assistance to the Trustee since his arrest."
Sorkin drew snickers when he said the whole scandal had "taken a tremendous toll" and it "had also taken a toll on Madoff and his family and, to be sure, the victims in this case" as well as "the industry he helped revolutionize."
"If Madoff ever sees the light of day," Sorkin said, he will emerge from prison "impoverished and alone. He will have paid a terrible price."
The defense attorney gamely tried to minimize the size of the losses in the case.
"Most of the money went toward redemptions. People who invested money were given back money," he said.
He said the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) has already recovered over $1 billion and has started litigation to seek clawbacks and redemptions and interest in excess of $10 billion.
But the math was not in his favor.