In his first prison interview, a buff-looking Bernie Madoff said he couldn't believe he got away with his massive Ponzi scheme for so long.Bernie Madoff, as revealed by this lawyer who seems to have a serious case of man-love, exemplifies what I call 'Herman Goering syndrome.'
"There were several times that I met with the SEC and thought 'they got me,'" Madoff told Joseph Cotchett, a San Francisco lawyer threatening to sue his wife, sons and brother on behalf of a group of victims.
Cotchett said he and his partner, Nancy Fineman, met with Madoff for four and a half hours Tuesday afternoon at the federal prison in Butner, NC, where Madoff is serving his 150-year sentence.
"He looked pretty good and seems to be working out," said Cotchett. "He looked a lot better than he has in some months since I've seen photographs of him."
In the past, I've defended liquor liability claims. Bar serves a customer until he's stinking drunk. He meanders into the parking lot and gets behind the wheel. Disaster ensues. Drunk goes to jail, bar gets sued. We would end up deposing the drunk driver in prison. Often it would be a young guy and, with a manslaughter charge, he'd be in a medium security facility. He stops smoking, stops drinking, counsels with the chaplain, eats three squares a day, and works six hours in the great outdoors. By the time he leaves, he's tanned, fit and telling everyone prison's the best thing that ever happened to him.
Towards the end of Hitler's Reich, Goering too was a bloated, debauched wreck.
Then he gets captured by the Allies and put in prison. He reads, he takes walks, he eats three Puritan meals a day, and he plans for a trial he knows will end with his death sentence. By that time he's clean, sober and ready to eat the US member of the prosecuting team for breakfast.
Thus with Bernie Madoff, who's apparently got this guy eating out of his hand instead of teeing up to sue everybody named Madoff into the ground until they're coughing up that last cuff link or bit of cubic zirconium they tried to smuggle out in their stomachs.
"I was surprised at how candid he was," Cotchett told ABCNews.com after the session, the first time Madoff has talked with outside lawyers. Madoff refused to cooperate with the FBI after his initial, largely untruthful confession last December.So now it's 'Ruth.' Quite the fire-breather, is Cotchett. If it were me, she'd be 'the prisoner's wife,' 'the wife of Bernie Madoff, convicted swindler,' 'Mrs. Bernie Madoff,' and some other choice stuff every time there's a microphone on.
Cotchett said Madoff "did not dodge" any of the questions he asked and that Madoff's lawyer did not object to any of the questions.
"He obviously wanted to speak with us because in his opinion, certain members of his family knew nothing about it, had no involvement of it," said Cotchett who was able to arrange the unusual session after threatening to sue Madoff's wife Ruth.
"He cares about Ruth," said Cotchett, "but he doesn't give a ---- about his two sons, Mark and Andrew." The sons have not spoken with their father or mother since Madoff's arrest on December 11. They say there were unaware of the fraud scheme until he confessed to them as his money was running out and it appeared the crime would be exposed.
Cotchett said he did not yet know if he would name Ruth or the sons in the lawsuit, but that he was almost certain to name Madoff's brother, Peter, who served as the firm's chief compliance officer.
The part about the sons sure strikes me as interesting. Doesn't give a s--- about them? What a putz. On the other hand, maybe they told him to take the whole fall in exchange for helping to provide cover for Ruth. So understandably, nobody's returning anyone's calls. But assuming this quid pro quo exists (and if it doesn't, Bernard Madoff is the most multi-tasking superhuman who ever lived), what could possibly hold it together? Madoff knows he's dying in prison. The whole family will be sued into oblivion: no way a bunch of formerly-rich New Yorkers are settling so long as anybody named Madoff has a stick of furniture left, and short of that, their defense attorneys are positively salivating over their future invoices. Somebody will eventually crack.