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June 2009


How to Become a Bounty Hunter

Bernie Madoff’s 150 Year Sentence Raises Some Interesting Questions

By Allan Lengel
Former U.S. Atty. Roscoe Howard Jr.
Former U.S. Atty. Roscoe Howard Jr.
WASHINGTON – Swindler Bernie Madoff was trapped like rat. He really had no choice but to plead guilty. A conviction at trial was a foregone conclusion.

So here’s the two questions I have: Should U.S. District Judge Denny Chin, who gave Madoff a whopping 150-year sentence on Monday, have gone a little easier and taken into account that Madoff, 71, pleaded guilty instead of going to trial? And will this make some defendants think twice about pleading when they think they might get screwed in sentencing like Madoff?

A couple former federal prosecutors here in Washington answered those questions this way: No and No.

“This is clearly not a typical case,” says Stevan E. Bunnell, former chief of the criminal division for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington. He said he doesn’t see it impacting other pleas.

“You have to throw out the conventional wisdom,” said Bunnell of the law firm O’Melveny & Myers. “It’s such a high profile case. It’s kind of in its own universe.”

Roscoe Howard Jr., a former U.S. Attorney in Washington, who is now with the firm Troutman Sanders, concurs and says: “It’s hard to take Bernie Madoff and put him in any category. He’s going to be a name equivalent to Ponzi and Enron, people you can use one name to describe a whole genre of transgressions.”

“I think the 150 years is really an acknowledgment of what these folks have gone through. I think the judge was going to give him a sentence that amounted to a death sentence. He will die in jail. When you’re 71 years old, anything over 10 years, that’s essentially what you’re doing to him.”

And Howard adds that he doesn’t foresee any defendants saying: “I know what you did to Bernie Madoff, so I’m not going to plead guilty.”

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