David Siegal Weighs In on Madoff Sentencing in American Lawyer's Bar Talk

03/30/2009

What Price?
The American Lawyer

If ever there was a white-collar offender who seemed destined to do hard time, it is Bernard Madoff. In March the swindler pleaded guilty to 11 criminal counts that carry a maximum sentence of 150 years in jail. For some victims, however, it seems like 150 years is not enough.

Is the scarlet "life" the appropriate stigma for white-collar offenders? Is fraud ever the equivalent of violence? Bar Talk asked former prosecutors, defense attorneys, and sentencing experts:

David Siegal, Haynes and Boone partner and former federal prosecutor
"Life imprisonment is traditionally reserved for cases of murder or rape. The harm caused by fraud is categorically different from the harm caused by violent criminals. At the end of the day, fraud crimes are about money, not the taking of life. And the justice system should, in my view, recognize that difference. If, under appropriate circumstances, a judge were to impose a sentence that effectively amounted to the rest of that defendant's natural life, I would not find that to be wrong. However, the ability to pronounce a sentence of "life" should be reserved for those crimes involving extreme bodily injury or death."

Article excerpted from The American Lawyer.

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