Bernie Madoff doesn’t think he deserved 150 years in prison for his crime.
Denny Chin, the presiding judge, did.
But he did consider a 20 year sentence too, he’s revealed to the New York Times.
After Madoff’s lawyers urged Chin to hand down a prison sentence far less than the 150-year maximum, so he could at least live one year before his death outside a cell, Chin admits he did think about a 20-25 year term.
However, according to the New York Times, Chin decided that that “would have been just way too low. In the end, I just thought he didn’t deserve it. The benefits of giving him hope were far outweighed by all of the other considerations.”
The Times (with extra quotes at Dealbook) spoke to Madoff about Chin’s decision, and the Ponzi schemer thinks that Chin succumbed to the “mob psychology of the time” and made him “the human piñata of Wall Street”:
Explain to me who else has received a sentence like that. 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.
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.’ But quite frankly, there’s a big difference with dying in prison, you know, and dying outside with your family.
In my mind, Chin was anything but fair, with zero understanding of the industry.
For Chin, what appears to have been most important in his decision, was symbolism.
“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.”
Remember, the government wanted 150 years; the court’s probation department wanted 50.
Chin said he needed to send a serious message that showed no mercy, and that he “should do everything [he] possibly could to punish him.”
So he sat down at his computer and looked at the emails and letters from Madoff’s victims. One story in particular moved him:
… An account of a man who had invested his life savings with Mr. Madoff, then died of a heart attack two weeks later. The man’s widow had met with Mr. Madoff, who had put his arm around her and told her not to worry, that her money was safe with him.
Also, he hadn’t gotten a letter from one person in support of Madoff. He says, “The absence of such support is telling.”
NOW WATCH: Money & Markets videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.