WELCOME TO THE OFFICIAL RICHARD E GERSTEIN JUSTICE BUILDING BLOG. THIS BLOG IS DEDICATED TO JUSTICE BUILDING RUMOR, HUMOR, AND A DISCUSSION ABOUT AND BETWEEN THE JUDGES, LAWYERS AND THE DEDICATED SUPPORT STAFF, CLERKS, COURT REPORTERS, AND CORRECTIONAL OFFICERS WHO LABOR IN THE WORLD OF MIAMI'S CRIMINAL JUSTICE. THIS BLOG HAS BEEN CALLED "THE DEFINITIVE BLOG ON MIAMI CRIMINAL LAW" BY THE NY TIMES, THE WASHINGTON POST, THE POPE, AND DONALD TRUMP WHO ALSO ONCE SAID IT WAS "REALLY GREAT". POST YOUR COMMENTS, OR SEND RUMPOLE A PRIVATE EMAIL AT HOWARDROARK21@GMAIL.COM

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

50 IS WAY TOO MUCH

UPDATE= Check out the mob mentality in the comments section as the vox populi screams for more blood, more flesh, and more time for Rothstein. It's just this type of mob mentality that an independent judiciary is supposed to protect us from.

As we all know by now, Federal Judge James Cohn sentenced former attorney-ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein to 50 years in prison. Rothstein turns 48 on June 10, 2010.

This sentence is way too severe. It was ten years more than the government asked for, and twenty years more than the defense asked for, and 30 years more than former attorney-ponzi schemer Marc Dreier received for his crimes in NYC. For more on what Dreier did- which in many ways exceeded Rothstein's crimes, click here.

Cohn seemed to justify the 50 year sentence by telling Rothstein's attorney that unlike the Dreier case, Rothstein forged and fabricated judicial orders. While it is true that Rothstein did that and much more, the forged orders do not justify an additional 30 years. Rothstein forged the orders way into the end of his Ponzi scheme, and the orders, which were extremely poorly written, did little to help Rothstein in the main part of his Ponzi scheme.

We don't diminish Rothstein's crimes. Rothstein was brought down by his hubris pure and simple. And along the way he stole, and delighted in flaunting his apparent financial success in the face of the legal community when all along it wasn't success but simple fraud that allowed Rothstein to live his extravagant lifestyle.

The best way to look at a sentence is to work backwards. Starting today, what would have been an appropriate amount of punishment for these crimes in the past? If Rothstein was convicted in 1990 and was released from prison today, would that have been sufficient? Or how about if he was sentenced in 1980, when Ronald Reagan was president and when personal computers and cell phones were gleams in engineers eyes- would that have been sufficient punishment? That would have been 30 years.

Or how about if he was sentenced in 1970 when Nixon was president and color TVs were an extravagance that not many could afford. Would 40 years in a federal penitentiary have been sufficient? Not to Judge Cohn. No, Judge Cohn felt that incarcerating Rothstein from 1960 until today would be appropriate punishment. That is just ridiculous.

Prison wrecks most people. Mr. Rothstein will lose his wife. His parents will die while he is in prison and he will not be able to attend their funerals. His daughter will grow up and have a life and family of her own and he will not be a part of it. And all that punishment could have been accomplished by sentencing Rothstein to 25 years. Where will you be in 2035? Mr. Rothstein will be in a federal penitentiary, half way through his sentence.

Rothstein had over 15 million dollars in cash and assets with him when he fled to Morocco, which doesn't have an extradition treaty. And yet Rothstein chose to return. What message does this sentence send? It sends a message that our justice system imposes vengeance, not justice. Rothstein cooperated with the government to the extent that the prosecutor called his cooperation extraordinary. And Judge Cohn sentenced Rothstein to a sentence guaranteeing that Rothstein will die in prison. What would Cohn have given Rothstein without cooperation? 70 years? 80 years? Like that makes a big difference.

Judge Cohn's sentence was excessive by almost any yardstick that free and enlightened societies use to measure justice and punishment. The sentence bespoke of pandering to the mob, which enraged by Rothstein's extravagant lifestyle, has been demanding "the max." Cohn sentenced Rothstein as if he felt personally offended by Rothstein forging the signature of his colleagues. This 50 year sentence has all the earmarks of vengeance, and little semblance to justice.

A sentence should be a just imposition of punishment. A sentence should not be a sham to be adjusted downward at a later time. It is improper for Judge Cohn to sentence Rothstein to 50 years with an eye towards adjusting it downward to 30 years at a later time. If Rothstein deserves 30 years, he should have received 30 years, and then later received the benefit of his cooperation. That is how the system is designed to work.

It takes a lot to make us or anyone sympathetic to a criminal scam artist's plight.
50 years is a lot of time.

See You In Court.



39 comments:

Abe Laeser said...

Rumpole,
You do diminish the extent of his crimes by the title of this article. Frankly, given the lives, the children, grandchildren, and entire families whose lives he ruined, 50 years sounds about right.

He did it all while living like a complete "chazzer", and flaunting his stolen wealth, as though he had earned it.

By the way, we are all tarnished by a lawyer who steals for the pleasure of living on other peoples' money. You can be his apologist, but he got his 50 years the old fashioned way: He earned it!

Anonymous said...

2035 is going to be awesome! I'm sure by then all the dead weight at the SAO and PDs office will finally have retired, and this blog will no longer be running since Rump will be in his 80s. I'm pretty sure the future State Attorney will be that brown haired female ASA in front of Judge Bloom, while the PD will be that PD CLI in front of Judge Ward.

Rumpole said...

Mr. Laeser- what better person to engage in a in depth exploration of crime and punishment!!!!

As a lawyer I dont feel the need for Mr. Rothstein to serve more time because he tarnished me. I expect clients and people to judge me for me, and not my profession.

As to families being ruined, I am not sure Mr. Rothstein had the same devastating effect on families that Mr. Madoff did. But that is really besides the point. The real issue is this- this man led a double life. At his sentencing the mother of a young man- related to the Blades family- stood up to speak on behalf of Mr. Rothstein and the blessings he brought on her family by mentoring her young son who was deprived of a father about 10-15 years ago. Does that count for anything? Does his cooperation count? Does his decision to return and try and make things right mean anything? According to Judge Cohn- the answer is NO. You are now in private practice- If I stole 20 million from my trust account and fled to Morocco and called you for advice, how could I ever believe that doing the right thing and returning would mean that I would be treated fairly and not overly harsh?

I believe in redemption for most people. I believe that where there is life and humanity there is hope. You and I have both looked into the eyes of killers who lacked or lost that spark of humanity. I have no problem with warehousing those broken people.

But I think in a judicial career - outside of violent crimes which are clearly different- a Judge should be sending a person to prison for the rest of his life once a decade if at all. I can see it for Madoff, but not for this shlemiel.

I am sure that if we opened the Herald today to see that a man who stole 50 million in 1980 was getting out of prison today we wouldn't have any problem with it. Rothstein was given 50 because I believe of the unavoidable emotion attached to seeing someone who flaunted his wealth get whats coming to him. And that is wrong. Judge Cohn is supposed to sentence without emotions based on vengeance. I just don't see how this sentence is just.

The ball is on your side of the net.

Anonymous said...

wow, when phil davis got 20 years for stealing 80k..i didn't see anyone here complain too much...now Rothstein is a victim...signing a federal judges name is of no moment????..give me a break...u shall get plenty of comments on this post....almost as many as getting into the jail poll!!!!

Anonymous said...

Rumpole - you are a clown

Abe - you are right

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know when he would be eligible for parole?

Anonymous said...

Rumpole, I agree with your original post 100%. I would add one thing though, Rothstein took no one's life. No one was physically injured by him. This is and has always been about money.

How is it that child molesters, rapists, and some killers (I'm thinking of a recent pro-athlete that killed a man while driving drunk)get considerably less time for exponentially worse crimes.

Rothstein's sentence may be legally justifiable, but it is not morally justifiable.

Anonymous said...

So let me get this straight, Rothstein will be getting more years then Vandersloot?

The real Howard Roarke said...

Lighten the sentence because the forged judicial orders were "poorly written"??? Holy crap. What, too many dangling participles?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps if more judges hammered these guys, there wouldn't be so many of them. Rothstein, et al weren't motivated by the need to put bread on the table, they were motivated by the desire to have more toys and power than anyone they know. They didn't victimize one or two people at a time, they victimized families by the dozen. They all knew what they were doing was wrong, but enjoyed every damn minute..........at others' expense.

Sorry, there are plenty of people doing too much time in prison, but Rothstein most certainly will not be one of them.

BTDT

PS---he turned himself in because he knew he'd be caught and thought the judge would cut him a break. That's not a mitigator, it's a joke.

Anonymous said...

The sentence was justified by the forging of Federal judicial orders and signatures.

Get it? That's a really really BAD thing for a lawyer to do. Still don't get it? Then you never will.

Kudos to Judge Cohn for slamming this scumbag.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget that most victims in this case were sophisticated investors whose greed at getting unrealistic returns on their money led them to invest in Rothstein's scheme. Just like in the Madoff case, the victims knew that there was something unkosher about the deal, but, as long as the money kept flowing, they kept their questions to themselves. Will victims high in the pyramid pay back the money that they received from new investos at the base? I doubt that they will unless forced to do so by the courts.

Anonymous said...

David Miller got this one right, yet the 3rd DCA reversed him. It's a bad precedent where subjectivity wins over objectivity.

http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/06/09/1672418/a-fake-officer-court-to-decide.html

Anonymous said...

but you forget that he is building in time that he will reduce on a substantial assistance motion. in the end 30 years will be what he gets. and that is what he deserves.

Anonymous said...

The judge's sentence sends a message. Steal a billion dollars and come out of prison in a pine box.

Rothstein was an idiot. He was out of the country with 16 million in cash. He came back and spilled his guts and played nice with everyone. What could he possibly have been thinking? That if he didnt come back he would get 20 years in prison? And if he did come back and played nice, he'd get 10?

He's 48 years old. There was a very good probablility that he was going to spend several decades in prison and most likely die there. 30 years, 40 years, 50 years is all the same.

He should have taken that cash, made himself disappear and if the US Marshals come a knocking, so be it. At least you tried.

Anonymous said...

Here's the real question, Rump: Given the discretion district court judges now have in sentencing, what do you think are the chances that the 11th Circuit will reverse the 50-year sentence as being substantively unreasonable?

Anonymous said...

I am a defense attorney and quite liberal by most accounts. That being said, I think Rothstein got exactly what he deserved, and frankly I don't give two shits that his daughter will grow up without a father. Boo fucking hoo. That is Rothstein's fault 100%, not the Judge's fault. Why is a crime so much more serious just because it is a "violent" crime? I would much rather be beaten, burglarized, robbed... even stabbed or shot assuming that I survive with no permanent disability or disfigurement... than be swindled out of my life savings and left with nothing in my old age. If only he lives long enough to actually serve all 50 years.

Anonymous said...

rumpole
you are off your rocker

Anonymous said...

flaunts HIS wealth? i think you meant to say flaunts the wealth of others, no? because in my mind there is a big difference. if you cant to the time, then dont steal a billion dollars. if you were the judge rumpole you would have given him 20 years then down the road a third off for being a snitch. he would be out in 15 years to spend the money he is no doubt hiding from his victims.

Anonymous said...

Rump,

Did you catch a couple of words in a Herald article from Tuesday where it casually mentioned that the Jewish Avenger "is expected to enter a federal witness protection program?"

In other words, he's not necessarily going to jail. As far as his life, his daughter, his parents: that's gone. Once he enters the program he will end his life as Scott Rothstein and begin a new one, likely out of jail and under the protection of the feds.

You're too dismissive of the consequences of his attempted escape to Morocco. Extradition would have been the least of his worries. This guy perpetrated a $1.2 billion faud. Aside from the possibility, however remote, that any of his victims might have the desire and means to seek him out and exact vengeance, he also had to consider the very real threat of bounty hunters and the like coming after a big prize. He also apparently associated with the mob, so they might've been interested in finding him as well. This isn't bin Laden, he doesn't have a netwrok of devoted followers to protect him nor does he pose a credible threat of violence to ward anyone off. Furthermore, how far does $15-$16 million really get you nowadays and into the future? With all the bribes and hush money that he was going to have to pay, he would likely have burned through it pretty quickly.

Rothstein didn't come back to redeem himself or take responsibility for his actions. He came back because Nurik, or whomever was advising him while he was on the lam, likely went through the calculus with him and he realized that he could parlay the mob information to get into the witness protection program and he'd live a new life without this hanging over his head. Don't forget that as soon as he returned he started cooperating with the feds, which led to the apprehension of Settineri.

Sure, he'd have to give up his "family" and all that but he would've had to do that in Morocco as well. And at least now he'd have a little protection courtesy of the feds and our tax dollars.

The sentence is irrelevant because he's not going to serve it. What is telling is Scott Rothstein's ability to continue to wiggle out of tough spots.

Lesson: don't get close to Rothstein because he may emerge on top, but everyone around him always ends up paying the consequences. Look at his "wife", his parents, his daughter, Charles Blades, his colleagues, the people that invested their money with him, etc. The only ones left holding the bag are them. Scotty is off to another adventure.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone really care how long Scott spends in jail?

I cannot see why he should ever be released.

Remember the ads he ran on TV making himself look like a real nice guy?

Screw him. I do not want to live in a world where he is free.

Anonymous said...

Rump,


42.5 is the time served on 50. Still alot.

Rule 35 coming. He has earned some substantial assistance with more to come. This sentence was more for "show' and less for "dough" as they say in golf.

He is in witness protection. What do we really know about how this sentence will be served?

Anonymous said...

Abe must remember the old Smith Barney ads where the actor who played Professor Kingsfield in the Paper Chase said.... "Smith Baaaaaarney makes money the old faaaaashioned way, they eeeeearn it."

Anonymous said...

I gotta agree with Abe, and may I also add that even Rothstein's attorneys conceded that his actions were worse than Drier's. When you wonder why so many people think that lawyers are scum, we have our compadres like Rothstein to thank for it.

Anonymous said...

Like 1:14 I (was) a criminal defense attorney - although I am probably quite conservative by most standards.

I also agree with Abe. Rumpole - he didn't think about his daughter, parents, etc. when he was committing all those crimes. To say that his forgery of a judge's (federal or state) signature is irrelevant is absurd. Whether it substantially contributed to his crimes or not, it's a mortal sin.
THe guy would have kept on bilking everyone and acting as arrogant as ever if he had not been caught.
If he is in witness protection, I hope it in a prison somewhere. If not, I hope he rots and is miserable wherever he is. Hopefully they have witness protection in places other than some sun soaked beach locale....

Anonymous said...

schlubby mcputz is going bye bye

no way judge c give him more than 25% off his sentence

which means he winds up with a 37 year sentence

he'll be 80 when or if he gets out

he is not sorry. if he could have weasel and lied his way out, he would have

i hope in the first case that jeff "i talk a mean game" weaner tries in 20 years, he slaps fat scott around

Anonymous said...

Charming that you come to the defense of a rich white jewish guy but when phil davis got 20 which is also a life sentence, you agreed. phil only stole 100k. But I forgot, the jury got it wrong when they said not guilty the first time.

This con man rothstein steals a billion and you come out to defend him and lament that he gets life.

Anonymous said...

they have witness protection in jail moron

Anonymous said...

Rumpole - the man deserves Life
in prison. The shear audacity of
how he lived large on other peoples wealth is insane. Just because some other scumbag only got 20 years doesn't mean a damn thing. Disparate sentences for
similar crimes are a reality and
not necessarily unjust. As you
know every case is different.

And to say that his cooperation,
charity and other good deeds didn't count is complete nonsense.
Remember 50 years was still a downward variance and well below the guidelines. How often do
federal judges sentence below the guidelines? Come on I thought you
were more prepared then that.

Anonymous said...

Rumpole
The man got what he deserved. Abe is "Right On" on this.
DS

Anonymous said...

If I didn't know better (ok, I really don't), I'd believe that Rump really thinks Rothstein deserved to get hammered and was just trying to stimulate a discussion..........

BTDT

Abe Laeser said...

OK, I will play.

Assume that I am an average Joe who by good effort and luck manages to accumulate some wealth. Now my good friend Scott tells me about this amazing way to increase my monies to the point where I can retire at 45-50 and allow my family to live very well, get that big home, provide for my parents, and send my children to the best schools.

It turns out that Scott is very good at smiling at me, making me believe that we are still friends, and ripping off every penny of my savings -- which he convinced me to "invest".

Little did I know that he was investing in having a Veyron parked next to the Lambo, ad nauseum. Now I am destitute + my home is in forclosure, my credit rating is 200 and I need a job in order to avoid a job scraping up BP oil sludge. My family life is spinning out of control, as my wife is in tears all day and the children see me as a fool [even if I was, I hardly need to have them hate me].

Now multiply it by 50 families.

Then factor in that his sole reason for doing this to me is that his ego made him want to be rich and famous using my money. He would not settle for just being a good lawyer, he needed to suck the life-blood from his friends to feed his greed.

You think 50 is too tough? I spent a career listening to the crying families of too many victims not to understand that his actions have hastened many deaths and ruined the remaining years of untold persons.

FYI -- he is cooperating with so many agencies that I expect Joe Biden to show up at his Rule 35 and beg for mercy. And, of course, he is not at a Supermax prison.

I try to save my tears for those who are hurt - not for the ones who hurt others.

Being in private practice means that I fight my heart out for my clients. I do not like them all, nor need I like how they acted to become my clients. The fact that some of them are only sorry that they ever got caught does not change the pain that they brought upon others.

His sentence was fair, and I will never shed a tear for poor 'ole Scott.

Anonymous said...

Abe - anyone who hires you "to defend them" is out of their mind, as with hireing most "former" prosecutors.

but you are spot on here, and rumpole is a putz.

Anonymous said...

If Rothstein's sentence was the fair sentence, then should Madoff have gotten 2083 years in prison?

Should Phil Davis have gotten probation (his years in prison would have been an infinitely low decimal that would have required scientific notation)?

There is no consistency between the three sentences and I suppose it is impossible there ever would be.

Anonymous said...

Abe, if your friend Scott proposed to you an investment vehicle that seemed too good to be true because the return was far higher than anything else in the market, wouldn't you be worried that there was something funny (or phony) in the proposal? Or would you just keep your reservation and ethics to yourself and invest with him with your eyes closed (so that no one would see them glowing green with greed)?

the trialmaster said...

the "ABED" one could never ever be an effective defense lawyer in that he cannot muster the emotion that a jury needs to see in a defense lawyer. and that is why he could not win close cases on the facts as a prosecuter. Insurance defense would suit him better.

Anonymous said...

I will never understand the people who try to blame victims for crimes. Rothstein obviously is a con man. And, there are PLENTY of legitimate investments that have made people rich beyond their wildest dreams and Rothstein obviously knew how to "play the game." I can virtually guarantee that many of you would have fallen for his shenanigans.

BTDT

Anonymous said...

Abe= 2
Rump=0

Don't be sad, cause two out of three ain't bad-MeatLoaf

Can we go back to addressing the hot PD and SAO interns PLEEEEASE!

Anonymous said...

This was just like the Hialeah illegal-alien lottery ticket scam. The victims think they are scamming the "illegal alien" without realizing that they are the ones getting scammed.