U.S. Second Circuit - The FindLaw 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Employees Who Aided Madoff Will Remain in Jail, 2nd Cir. Rules

The Second Circuit upheld the conviction of five former employees for Bernie Madoff this week. In a summary order issued Wednesday, the court rejected arguments challenging the sufficiency of the evidence against then and the behavior of federal prosecutors.

The defendants were directors, portfolio managers, and computer programmers who had aided Madoff in the Ponzi scheme which landed Madoff a 150-year prison term and lost investors an estimated $17 billion dollars.

Plenty of Evidence of Fraud

The employees had been accused of helping Madoff perpetuate his scheme by creating fake documents and falsifying information about Madoff's trades. They were among 15 former employees who have been sentenced for their role in Madoff's company. Charges ranged from securities fraud to bank fraud to tax fraud.

For his role in the Ponzi scheme, back-office director Daniel Bonventre was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment. Joann Crupi and Annette Bongiorno, portfolio managers, were sentenced to six years, while programmers Jerome O'Hara and George Perez were given two and a half years.

On appeal, the group challenged the sufficiency of the evidence against them, as well as the conduct of the prosecution, among other issues. The Second Circuit easily dismissed the sufficiency arguments, finding, on issue after issue, that the trial evidence "tilted decidedly in favor" of conviction.

No Prosecutorial Misconduct

The group had also complained that prosecutorial misconduct had tainted the jury. In particular, the Madoff employees focused on the prosecution's rebuttal summary, which the trial judge described as "ill-conceived and unworthy of the institutional statute of the United States Attorney's Office."

Additionally, the defendants argued that the prosecution made several racially tinged references, meant to prejudice the largely black jury against the all-white defendants. That included a reference to Constance Baker Motley, an African American civil rights activist and federal judge, which the trial judge described as "at best ambiguous and at worst unfathomable."

But there is no evidence that the prosecution biased the jury with such moves, the Second Circuit found. While the prosecutor's "choice of subject was peculiar and his rhetoric needlessly grandiose, it did not constitute severe misconduct," the court concluded.

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