Ding-dong, the witch is sentenced to 150 years in prison

June 29, 2009


Remember how you had to look up “Ponzi Scheme” on wikipedia a few months ago?

Well, Bernie Madoff has been sentenced to 150 yearsone hundred and fifty years— in prison.

In pronouncing the sentence — the maximum he could have handed down — Judge Denny Chin turned aside Mr. Madoff’s own assertions of remorse and rejected the suggestion from Mr. Madoff’s lawyers that there was a sense of “mob vengeance” surrounding calls for a long prison term. Mr. Madoff’s crimes, the judge said, were “extraordinarily evil.”

Madoff's mugshot

Madoff's mugshot

As you might imagine, Madoff’s fraud has done massive damage. Retirement funds, college funds, you name it– they’re all gone.

In Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal, the main character, a confidence man, shrugs off his crimes. At least, he says, he didn’t kill anyone. Wrong, someone else replies. In your entire life, you’ve killed a total of 2 and a half people. You destroyed little parts of people’s lives, and you’ve done it so many times that you might as well have killed two and a half people.

So in a way, you can say that Madoff is a murderer.


After Mr. Madoff’s victims finished speaking, his lawyer, Ira Lee Sorkin, stood up and said the government’s request for a 150-year sentence bordered on absurd. He called Mr. Madoff a “deeply flawed individual,” but a human being nonetheless.

“Vengeance is not the goal of punishment,” Mr. Sorkin said.

Which brings us to an important question.

there is no god bro!

there is no god bro!

What is justice?

I’m only sort of kidding.

Madoff’s defense called the 150 year sentence “absurd,” but it’s not the biggest sentence ever handed down for a white collar crime. That distinction belongs to Sholam Weiss, was who sentenced to 845 years in 2000.

For that reason, I wouldn’t be too quick say that Madoff is getting especially bad treatment because of the circumstances of the economic recession. But really, 150 years? Isn’t that just a tad bit silly? Why not 140, or 120, or 100, or even 50?

Madoff’s lawyers asked for 12 years, going as far as to say,

Even with a lesser term, Mr. Sorkin added, Mr. Madoff expects to “live out his years in prison.”

There is no reason to hand down a max sentence, except as “vengeance” on behalf of the victims– a pretty shitty vengeance in any case, since Madoff’s life is going to be pretty much the same, whether it’s a 12 year or 150 year sentence. He will be dead in the next 12 years, and he will be dead in prison.

Why not just sentence him to life in prison– a more ambiguous sort of sentence, without a number attached to it to denote the enormity of his crime? Because 150 years is a gesture, a flourish of drama, a flex of power. The former aristocracy trembles; the proles eat it up.

The 150 year sentence is the circenses to the stimulus bill’s panem. There’s nothing wrong with playing emperor, but I resent the prostitution of the law to the government’s agenda.

In other news, the “Talking Business” columnist for the NY Times is a fucking piece of shit.


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