Bernie Madoff received the maximum sentence (150 years) for 11 federal crimes including securities fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud, money laundering, perjury, and making false filings with the SEC. It seems he was a rich man who made himself richer and certainly deserved serious punishment. I have listened to the media report this morning that the judge sent a strong message by giving Madoff the maximum sentence.
Still, I couldn’t help but think that I have heard of murderers who got less time than that. So what was the message? If you kill someone, you are bad, but if you take their money (when you already have money) you are "extraordinarily evil," "unprecedented" and "staggering" as Judge Chin said of Madoff’ and his crime.
It reminded me of some things that occurred while we lived in NM. In 1988 a musician in a local band was drunk and high when he ran over and killed a jogger in the early morning hours in Taos. I don’t remember his exact sentencing, but it was light. I do know that the musician spent weekdays in jail and then was free to work on weekends – playing his guitar in local bars. I also know that the musician was married, but did not have kids or any real dependents. I knew the musician and his wife who were nice people. I knew there was no intent to kill, yet because of him, a family lost their husband and father and provider.
Now I also knew another family in the area who rented a small cabin near our home in Questa. This cabin had been a tourist cabin in RR, but was old and run-down. It had been sold, moved, and replaced by modern cabins. The old cabin was basically a living area and kitchen with one bedroom and bathroom. The family that lived in it had eight kids. The father was in jail in Taos for fraud. He had been a preacher of sorts, but had fallen in with someone who had a money-investing-scheme-gone-bad. The father was not rich, had not gotten rich, and was not the ringleader of the investing company. But he was in jail, and the judge was not lenient at all even knowing the hardship placed on the man’s family. So what was the message sent here? What is more important in America – money or life?