Should Madoff be Released?

Published: February 28, 2020

By Jim Lichtman
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Bernie Madoff conned friends and strangers out of billions using a scheme that out-Ponzied Charles Ponzi, the now former emperor of elite schemers. However, after serving almost 11 years of a 150-year sentence, Madoff is now asking for an early release from prison due to a terminal illness.

In 1998, “Madoff pleaded guilty to 11 criminal counts… At the time of his sentencing, ‘it was clear that Madoff’s 150-year prison sentence was symbolic for three reasons: retribution, deterrence, and for the victims,’ the motion states. ‘Over the past ten years circumstances have changed.’ ”

Prison officials now report that Madoff is suffering from “end-stage renal disease and many other chronic medical conditions. He has a life expectancy of less than 18 months…”

“The Bureau of Prisons denied Madoff’s compassionate release request in December 2019, saying that ‘in light of the nature and circumstances of his offense, his release at this time would minimize the severity of the offense.’ It added that Madoff ‘has refused dialysis and any further testing, including laboratory work,’ for his condition, though Madoff’s lawyer said he began accepting dialysis that same month,” NPR reports (Feb. 6).

“Since the scheme was uncovered, lawyers have been able to recover at least 70% — some $13 billion — of the money feared lost.”

In a motion filed by Madoff attorney, Brandon Sample, “This Court must now consider whether keeping Madoff incarcerated, in light of his terminal kidney failure and a life expectancy of less than 18 months, is truly in furtherance of statutory sentencing goals and our society’s value and understanding of compassion.”

“…when Bernard Ebbers, sent to prison for 25 years for $11 billion in accounting fraud, asked for compassionate release last year, it hardly raised a stir. He was let out in December and died at home in Mississippi on Feb. 2, just around the time Madoff made his own request.”

The AP reported (Feb. 7), that “The U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan announced that those who suffered financial losses in the scheme have until the end of February to submit emails to Judge Denny Chin through the prosecutor’s office.”

While compassion is something we all strive to demonstrate, it’s difficult to ignore the number of individuals who suffered financial devastation as a result of Madoff’s fraud.

However, there are others who have shown compassion under extraordinary circumstances.

In 2006, Charles Roberts walked into a one-room Amish schoolhouse in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, armed with three guns. He took 8 hostages, killing 5 before turning the gun on himself.

On the same day of the shooting, CNN interviewed Reverend Robert Schenck who observed, “As we were standing next to the body of this 13-year-old girl, the grandfather was tutoring the young boys, ‘We must not think evil of this man.’

“ ‘It was one of the most touching things I have seen in 25 years of Christian ministry.’ ” Schenck added.

“Jack Meyer, a member of the Brethren community living near the Amish in Lancaster County, said local people were trying to follow Jesus’ teachings in dealing with the ‘terrible hurt.’

“ ‘I don’t think there’s anybody here that wants to do anything but forgive and not only reach out to those who have suffered a loss in that way, but to reach out to the family of the man who committed these acts,” Meyer added.

“A Roberts family spokesman said an Amish neighbor comforted the Roberts family hours after the shooting and extended forgiveness to them. Amish community members visited and comforted Roberts’ widow, parents, and parents-in-law. One Amish man held Roberts’ sobbing father in his arms, reportedly for as long as an hour, to comfort him.

“The Amish have also set up a charitable fund for the family of the shooter. About 30 members of the Amish community attended Roberts’ funeral, and Marie Roberts, the widow of the killer, was one of the few outsiders invited to the funeral of one of the victims.”

In an open letter to her neighbors, Marie Roberts wrote “Your love for our family has helped to provide the healing we so desperately need. Gifts you’ve given have touched our hearts in a way no words can describe. Your compassion has reached beyond our family, beyond our community, and is changing our world, and for this we sincerely thank you.”

U.S. Circuit Judge Denny Chin, the original judge in the Madoff case, is due to rule on his request for early release soon.

So, would you release Madoff?


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