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Madoff spends his first night behind bars

Video by Christopher MOORE

Latest update : 2009-03-14

Disgraced Wall Street financier Bernard Madoff has spent his first night behind bars after pleading guilty to 11 counts of fraud and money laundering. Prosecutors are seeking to recover the estimated $177 billion Madoff lost for his investors.

 AFP - Bernard Madoff always loved fancy jewelry -- and now he has a silvery pair of handcuffs for his collection.

The cuffing of Madoff in the Manhattan court room Thursday was the moment reality bit for a 70-year-old man who built an empire on lies.

Less than an hour earlier, he'd pleaded guilty to 11 counts of fraud, perjury and theft, an extraordinary litany of crimes punishable by up to 150 years in prison.

He had to do this in front of a handful of his thousands of victims and an angry public that crammed into the courtroom and into another room linked by video below.

"How often in life do you get to see the devil in person?" asked Daniel Strachman, a hedge fund trader who came to watch.

The public's devil wore a grey suit for the occasion, his white hair swept backward. He appeared nervous, diminished, frail.

"Pour yourself a drink of water," Judge Denny Chin told him.

The image of a pathetic, broken man may have been exaggerated, an attempt, along with the apology he offered, to win sympathy.

Or perhaps Madoff really was cracking under the pressure of finally seeing his life in ruins -- and having to confront the people whose lives he himself had ruined.

They sat behind him in the courtroom, but he must have felt their eyes burning into the back of his head.

Three of them were allowed to testify and they gave full vent to their anger, calling for the man who'd stolen billions to be forced to stand trial, instead of sneaking with minimum fuss into a jail cell.

"He's still manipulating us," Strachman said. "If you're 70 and go into a minimum security prison, it's like a holiday. He's a pariah in his own community and now he gets a new one."

Madoff, the man who charmed billions of dollars out of the world's savviest investors, still seemed to hope he could get the world to see things his way.

Defense lawyer Ira Sorkin argued that Madoff, having confessed to his guilt, should be shown mercy and allowed to stay in his apartment until sentencing June 16.

This was the same seven-million-dollar Manhattan apartment Madoff had shared with his wife Ruth since his arrest.

This was also the same apartment from which he once mailed more than a million dollars worth of diamond necklaces, Cartier watches and other jewelry to friends in violation of his bail.

But the tide had turned for ever.

Bitter laughter broke out in the courtroom when Sorkin mentioned that the wealthy Ruth Madoff paid at her "own expense" for government-ordered security measures at the apartment.

Chin had to ask the public to calm. Then the impassive judge gave them what they wanted.

"It is my intention to remand Mr Madoff," Chin said.

Again, victims shattered the formality of the courtroom -- this time with applause.

A US marshal put the cuffs on Madoff.

The stainless steel rings shone brightly on the man whose reality had just changed for good.


Date created : 2009-03-13