Most of you would think the decision to let Madoff remain free is a travesty. I disagree, here's why. Up till now, it's been commonly understood that stealing is OK as long as you steel from the poor (look at the IIG story). But stealing from the very rich was a different matter.
That's why the verdict in the Madoff case was a game-changer. The decision that Madoff should remain at large because "there is no evidence that any potential future dissemination of Madoff's assets would rise to the level of an economic harm" must give IIG's victims a reason to chuckle. The formal logic is unassailable: since a dollar is always a dollar, there would be no economic harm if Madoff's remaining assets go to his friends instead of his shareholders. In practical terms though, Judge Ellis's decisionhad made an important point: from now on, you are free to steel from the very poor and from the very rich alike.
NEW YORK – A judge allowed disgraced money manager Bernard Madoff to remain free on bail Monday, rejecting an attempt by prosecutors to send him to jail for mailing more than $1 million in jewelry to family and friends over the holidays.
The decision is sure to outrage investors who have been clamoring for Madoff to be sent to jail for allegedly carrying out the largest financial fraud in history — a fraud that authorities say he described as a Ponzi scheme.
Prosecutors said the gifts were grounds to have his bail revoked because what's left of Madoff's assets will have to be returned to burned investors.
But the judge not swayed by the their arguments that Madoff represents an economic danger to the community because of the size of the fraud and his actions in sending the gifts.
"The government fails to provide sufficient evidence that any potential future dissemination of Madoff's assets would rise to the level of an economic harm," Magistrate Judge Ronald L. Ellis wrote.
Ellis also acknowledged the widespread public interest in Madoff's bail and the case, but said that proper legal considerations must take precedence.
"The issue at this stage of the criminal proceedings is not whether Madoff has been charged in perhaps the largest Ponzi scheme ever, not whether Madoff's alleged actions should result in his widespread disapprobation by the public, nor even what is appropriate punishment after conviction," the judge wrote.
"The legal issue before the court is whether the government has carried its burden of demonstrating that no condition or combination of conditions can be set that will reasonably assure Madoff's appearance and protect the community from danger," the ruling said,
In a separate decision, another magistrate signed off on an extension for the deadline to indict Madoff until Feb. 11. That means Madoff will remain free for at least another month, provided he does not violate the terms of his bail during that time.
A bankruptcy judge, meanwhile, said a trustee can issue subpoenas to investigate the flow of money in an investment fund run by Madoff.