The federal government today took a second shot at attempting to argue in court that alleged $50 billion fraudster Bernard Madoff ought be put behind bars while it gets its case against him into shape for court, and a second federal judge deflected the attempt to revoke the current bail conditions.
Madoff stepped out of a grey Kia crossover SUV wearing a blue bulletproof vest over a dark grey suit with his wavy, elegant grey hair swept back over his collar.
He removed the vest for court and sat at the defense table in the large, climate controlled courtroom calmly listening as his attorney flicked away the government's arguments and the judge questioned the very premise of the appeal.
He need not have bothered to doff the vest. The whole thing took less than one hour. Then it was back out into the bitter cold, into the grey SUV and back up to the posh confines of his $7 million penthouse.
The government's core argument, made by Assistant U.S. Attorney Marc Litt, was that there is "no set of conditions short of detention under which the defendant can be trusted."
Federal District Court Judge Lawrence M. McKenna did not buy it and handed Litt his latest defeat in the nascent case against Madoff, which has been engaged in bail discussions since the Dec. 11 arrest of the alleged master of one of, if not the largest, Ponzi schemes or financial crimes every contrived. Those discussions have been held against a backdrop of public outrage and demands that Madoff, who has not even been indicted, be jailed pre-trial.
"The government has not shown," McKenna said in a quite voice, that Madoff needed detention.
"The government has not shown," McKenna repeated, kindly and with his head bowed, that Madoff was a flight risk.
"The chance of Mr. Madoff fleeing at this point," he said is "close to nil."
The government "has not met" its legal burden, was McKenna's decision on the government's effort to appeal to him the decision on Monday by Federal Magistrate Ronald Ellis to not alter the conditions of Madoff's bail.
Madoff, for decades, allegedly scammed thousands of sophisticated investors as well as middle class professionals who had bet their retirement well-being on him. On the world's pricier golf courses, and in the dining rooms of some of the world's more exclusive country clubs, "Madoff" was whispered from doctor to banker to lawyer to investment manager as if the Bernard L. Madoff fund was the gold standard of investments: a place so secure that double digit returns came in annually for decades with nary a bad season; a club so exclusive that money was turned away.
He is currently confined, except for court appearances, to his Manhattan cooperative apartment. There is an armed security guard on duty at all times, video cameras recording visitors at both the front and rear entrances, and Madoff also wears an electronic security ankle bracelet that would instantly notify the U.S. Marshals or the FBI if he attempted to leave the premises without permission and an escort.
Litt argued that was not enough. He said that three packages Madoff and his wife, Ruth Madoff, mailed to their sons and daughter's in-law, his grandchildren and a couple in Florida containing watches and other heirloom jewelry worth about a million dollars was further proof that Madoff "cannot be trusted under any set of conditions short of detention."