August 7, 2022

DealBook: Madoff Says He’s a ‘Human Pinata’

Bernard L. MadoffStephen Chernin/Getty ImagesBernard L. Madoff

Bernard L. Madoff, the convicted fraudster, does not think he deserved a 150-year sentence.

In recent interviews and e-mails with The New York Times, he lamented that Judge Denny Chin did not give him even a small chance of getting out of prison.

“Maybe the judge felt, ‘Well, he’s 70 years old, so even if I give him 20 years, he’s going to be 90 years old,’ ” Mr. Madoff said by phone from the federal prison at Butner, N.C.

“But quite frankly, there’s a big difference with dying in prison, you know, and dying outside with your family.”

Mr. Madoff went a step further, essentially saying that he was made to be the scapegoat of the financial crisis.

“In my mind, Chin was anything but fair, with zero understanding of the industry,” Mr. Madoff added.

He said the judge had made him “the human piñata of Wall Street,” while financial firms and government officials “walk away free.”

But Judge Chin, in a separate article by The New York Times, defended the lengthy sentence. After quickly rejecting Mr. Madoff’s request for a 12-year sentence, the judge said he considered 20 to 25 years. But he ultimately he decided it “would have been just way too low.”

“In the end, I just thought he didn’t deserve it,” the judge told The New York Times. “The benefits of giving him hope were far outweighed by all of the other considerations.”

Judge Chin noted in the interviews that 20 or 25 years would have effectively been a life sentence for Mr. Madoff, and any additional years would have been purely symbolic. Yet symbolism was important, he said, given the enormity of Mr. Madoff’s crimes.

“Splitting the baby, to me, was sending the wrong message,” he said. “Often that’s the easy way out, but as we know from the old parable, that wasn’t the right thing to do.”

Not surprisingly, Mr. Madoff saw it a different way.

Mr. Madoff, speaking by phone from federal prison in Butner, N.C., said he believed that Judge Chin went along with “the mob psychology of the time.”

“Explain to me who else has received a sentence like that,” Mr. Madoff said. “I mean, serial killers get a death sentence, but that’s virtually what he gave me.”

“I’m surprised Chin didn’t suggest stoning in the public square,” he added.

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