These Bernie Madoff victims support the Ponzi scheme king's bid to leave prison early to die a free man

Key Points
  • Twenty letters from victims of Bernie Madoff have been sent to a judge supporting his request for compassionate relief on the grounds that he is dying of kidney disease. About 500 letters from victims oppose his bid.
  • Madoff oversaw the largest Ponzi scheme in history, defrauding thousands of people out of billions of dollars at his New York City investment firm.
  • Federal prosecutors oppose his release from his 150-year prison term.
Bernie Madoff
Stephen Chernin | Getty Images

They got robbed blind by Bernie Madoff — but they still support the Ponzi scheme kingpin's request to get out of prison early so that he can die a free man.

"I forgive Mr. Madoff, and I'd like him to be released," a Madoff victim wrote the judge who is considering whether to free the notorious fraudster from his 150-year prison term because he is terminally ill from kidney disease.

Another victim wrote U.S. District Judge Denny Chin in a letter: "Even though we lost a lot of our savings, we favor Mr. Madoff being released to die on his own turf."

"We believe he has had enough opportunity to come to regret his actions," wrote that victim, one of thousands of people who lost billions of dollars to the now-81-year-old Madoff.

"Even if he hasn't, we think there is no need for the taxpayers to provide his end of life are in prison. Certainly he can get more compassion elsewhere."

A third victim wrote, "[W]e are practicing Christians who believe in Mercy, first, and Forgiveness, always! We are sure he has had to bear unbelievable hardship in prison, and that he no longer represents any kind of threat to society; therefore, we are in favor of his release."

The supportive letters, sent by just a handful of Madoff victims, were quoted in a new filing by his lawyer in federal court in Manhattan, which replies to prosecutors' recommendation that Chin deny compassional release.

In a related filing, Madoff's lawyer Brandon Sample asked Chin to grant him a court hearing so that Madoff can speak, in his own words via telephone, about his remorse for his crimes.

"Allowing Mr. Madoff to give what is, in effect, a final dying personal personal plea is eminently reasonable," Sample wrote.

"Mr. Madoff's live, personal statement could also help the Court in reaching its weighty decision on whether to grant Mr. Madoff compassionate release," the lawyer wrote.

Bernie Madoff says he's ill, requests early release so he can die at home
Bernie Madoff says he's ill, requests early release so he can die at home

In another filing, Sample asked Chin to keep sealed a letter from "a person who has agreed to allow Madoff to live with them if the Court grant's Mr. Madoff's release."

"The contents of this letter, if released publicly, could lead to the harassment or other invasions of the letter writer's privacy given the extremely public nature of this case."

Madoff last month filed a motion seeking compassionate release.

The request came 11 years after he pleaded guilty to multiple crimes related to his decades-long scam at Bernard L. Madoff Securities in New York, which has been called the largest Ponzi scheme in history.

Sample wrote in that February filing that the fraudster has "less than 18 months to live," and is suffering from "numerous other serious medical conditions" including cardiovascular disease and hypertension.

Prosecutors last week quoted from some of the around 500 or letters sent by Madoff victims opposing his bid to be set free.

Just 20 victims wrote Chin backing Madoff's motion.

"Our lives, and not just financially, also emotionally, mentally, and physically ... were Destroyed," wrote one victim quoted by prosecutors, who noted that her husband lost $850,000 to Madoff.

Another woman wrote: "I lost all my money and my husband of 40 years committed suicide because of his horrific crimes."

But Sample, in his new court filing wrote, "Not all victims of Madoff oppose his motion for compassionate release."

"While they may represent the minority view, their voices and opinions also deserve to be heard and taken into consideration," wrote Sample.

Sample's selection of supportive letters, like those by the prosecutors citing negative recommendations, do not name the letter writers.

Although most of the writers' names are expected to become public at some point, Chin will consider requests by some of them to redact their names from public court filings.

One victim wrote of Madoff, "He has already paid a substantial price for his malfeasance and no further justice would be served in keeping him imprisoned."

Another victim, who said they lost $250,000 to Madoff's scheme, wrote, "his life expectancy is only 18 months and having to live with kidney failure in my view is as good as a death sentence."

"[T]he merciful thing to do in this case is allow Mr. Madoff to live out the remaining time he has, out of prison ... I have harbored extremely ill will towards Mr. Madoff since the day I discovered my family and I were one of his victims," the person wrote. "Nevertheless, compassion is needed at this stage."

And someone else scammed by Madoff wrote, "Of course it was bad what he has done and I think he knows it too. Being for about 10 years in prison now and being sick, I think that he has suffered enough."

Sample, in his filings, addressed claims by prosecutors that Madoff "has demonstrated a wholesale lack of understanding of the seriousness of his crimes and a lack of compassion for his victims, underscoring that he is undeserving of compassionate release himself."  

"Madoff has and continues to accept responsibility for his actions, and holds sincere regret and remorse for his crimes—and the impact they have had on his victims," Sample wrote.

The lawyer noted that when he was sentenced in 2009 after pleading guilty, Madoff admitted that he "betray[ed] thousands of investors," "deceiv[ed] 200 employees," lied to his family, and "deceiv[ed] an industry."

Sample wrote, "Madoff lives with the guilt and shame of what he did every day, and he hopes the Court will give him the opportunity to address this through an evidentiary hearing."

"Mr. Madoff believes the Court would not only benefit from oral argument on the motion, but also hearing directly from Mr. Madoff about his acceptance of responsibility."

In a response Wednesday, prosecutors in the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said they the office took no position of Madoff's request for a hearing, "but notes that any claims of acceptance of responsibility by Madoff at this point would be self-serving and of limited, if any, evidentiary value."