He once was the king of Wall Street.
Sophisticated investors and federal regulators were putty in his hands.
But when Bernie Madoff was led into the ceremonial courtroom of the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Federal Courthouse in New York for his sentencing on June 29, 2009—the proceeding moved to the larger courtroom to accommodate the crowd—the most successful con man in history looked frail and unsteady, a shell of his former self.
I had managed to secure a seat in the jury box, just a few feet to Madoff's right, and I did what reporters do in courtrooms without cameras: I stared at him, intensely, not daring to take my eyes off him in hopes that somehow I might gain some insight—however slight—into what made Madoff tick.
I watched him as victim after victim stood and told their stories. Some were angry, many in tears, one shouted out "a monster" at him, but all showed him unbridled contempt.