U.S. District Judge Denny Chin referred to Madoff''s crimes as "extraordinary evil" at sentencing stating that "this type of manipulation is not just a bloodless crime that takes place on paper but one instead that takes a staggering toll."
Although many of the victims present in the courtroom were pleased with the sentence, they all understand that a a century and a half of largely symbolic punishment will do little to help the legions of persons that were financially wiped out by the fraud of staggering proportions perpetrated on victims who trusted Madoff with their money, their future and their retirement dreams
Now 71 years old, Madoff will spend the rest of his days on earth in a cell that is a far cry from the opulent residences that he shared with his wife and family. Maybe a few months of that kind of existence will convince Madoff that his heinous acts are more than "an error of judgement", a "problem" or a "tragic mistake" which were the terms that he used at sentencing to refer to his elaborate financial ruse
But then again probably not
The victims, who at sentencing referred to Madoff as a "monster" and a "psychopath" were right on base. Working as a prosecutor for over two decades I have come across my share of clinical psychopaths over the years. Although the psychopaths that I normally deal with commit crimes of a violent nature, they share plenty in common with Bernie Madoff. Lying, manipulation, coldness and lack of empathy are the hallmarks of a psychopath, a person who exploits relationships and persons with abandon and without remorse. Bernie Madoff certainly fits the bill on all points.
For those who wonder whether Madoff ever thinks of the persons that he has ruined, the answer is complex. He thinks about them he doesn't care in a way that a normal person can relate to. He cares that he got caught. He cares that his luxurious life has been taken away but he won't lay awake at night thinking about the daily struggles that his victims will have to endure.
His courtroom statements were very telling about what is important in the mind of Bernie Madoff. How can one stand in a courtroom looking in the eyes of persons who have been ruined by your actions, and refer to your misdeeds as an "error of judgement?" Those words alone pretty much say it all. The man understands but fails to care that he has condemned scores of persons to a life of poverty and struggle. His later feeble attempts at apology were overshadowed by the references to his "problem" and his "tragic mistake," the same tragic mistake that he kept making over and over while in the process imprisoning his victims in their own version of hell.
Judge Chin noted at sentencing that not a single letter had attested to Madoff''s good deeds or charitable activities further commenting that the silence was telling.
The silence is telling? The silence is deafening and yet says it all.
Statements made in this post are my own and are not intended to reflect the views, opinion or position of the Michigan Attorney General or the Michigan Department of Attorney General.