Friday, June 11, 2010


RUMPOLE DEFENDS HIMSELF: I am surprised that based on the level of experience and intelligence of our dear readers that no one gets my point: I AM NOT DEFENDING SCOTT ROTHSTEIN. His crimes are indefensible. I am criticizing the specific sentence in this case and our overall sentencing philosophy. What better vehicle than using a despised criminal to illustrate my argument?

There are multiple problems with this sentence, and the first problem is an issue I contend has not been refuted: where is the acknowledgement by Judge Cohn of Rothstein's cooperation? You talk about sending a message for his crime? First- I don't know that there are many lawyers in Miami have a chance to steal a billion and are considering it. The crime is an aberration. But I do know lots of clients (and one billionaire that I am representing in a federal investigation in another state who currently has fled the country) who have fled or are considering fleeing. What message does this sentence send to people who want to return and "do the right thing?"

Second: What most people are saying is that Judge Cohn gave Rothstein 50 with the foresight he is going to reduce it to 30 after the cooperation hearing because what Rothstein really deserves is 30 . That is not how the system is supposed to work. There is supposed to be truth in sentencing. If Rothstein deserved 30, give him 30. If his cooperation merits a reduction BELOW what he deserves, that is the way it is supposed to work. What is our famed Federal Blogger supposed to say to the next client of his who is offered cooperation and responds that he knows the judge will just give him a higher sentence on the front end so that his cooperation will end up being meaningless? That is what happened here.

Third: The real problem is that our judicial system sentences people on average to more prison time per crime than any other industrialized nation that has a fair judicial system. Look what we do to drug users with the minimum mandatory sentences. Lately there are articles of judges refusing to impose the min man sentences for drug trafficking - the problem is that their enlightened protests are twenty years too late. In one celebrated case Judge Jack Weinstein- a legendary US District Court Judge in the Eastern District of NY refused to impose a min man for a possession of child pornography case. Click here. And that case illustrates what I am trying to do here: It is downright impossible to defend Scott Rothstein or find anything good to say about someone who gets sexual gratification from pictures of children.

It his however possible to treat the criminal with fairness. Otherwise we lower ourselves to their level- exploiting the weak for personal gratification. It made a lot of people feel good to see Rothstein get 50. That doesn't make it right.

I agree Bernie Madoff needs to be in prison for the rest of his life. His crimes truly destroyed families who placed their trust and life savings in his care. Not so with Rothstein. Rothstein's money mostly came from Hedge Funds- although I agree he did screw up one lawsuit for which he used forged judicial orders to cover his tracks. But does that merit 50 years? A famous football player killed someone in Miami Beach recently with his car and received 30 days. Rothstein did not physically kill or injure anyone. Most of the loss was from professional investors who were either greedy, didn't do their due diligence or were part of the scam. There were others who were personally hurt. A 25 year sentence would have been sufficient punishment in those cases.

We sentence people to terms of years as if they don't really mean anything. Life in prison is hard, difficult, cruel, and in many places in the US, inhumane. Female prisoners who had open cases were being raped and sexually abused at the federal holding facility in Miami. Those responsible for those crimes deserve 50 years. And we all know that type of abuse is the tip of the iceberg for what occurs in our prisons. And for that we all bear the responsibility of turning a blind eye to the outrageous abuses in our penal system. You spend one day in prison and then let me know how easy it is.

All my critics can say in response (mostly) is that Rothstein is a jerk or a pig and got what was coming to him. No- he got more than what was coming to him. If he received 25 years in 1985 and got out today would that really and truly be an injustice? Do you think he would just saunter out of prison having lost a quarter of a century of his life with a smile on his face thinking it was all worth it?

Miami Judge Harvey Shenberg sold for $50,000 cash what he thought was the name of an informant who was going to be killed, and he got less than 20 years. Which crime more tarnished our profession?

Miami Judge Roy Gelber was selling appointments as fast as he could. He cooperated and got less than ten. It was an odious sentence and Gelber deserved much more. But he was rewarded for his cooperation. The system worked.

Other countries recognize the terrible impact a prison sentence has on someone. Their sentences are rational and reasonable. Ours are neither.

It's easy to trash Scott Rothstein and throw away the key. It's harder to look in the mirror and ask what are we doing to people in our justice system. It's the cases like the one Judge Weinstein had or the Rothstein case that helps us examine our morals and calibrate what justice really is.

Rothstein got slammed. It makes us feel good for the moment.

Justice was not done in that Ft. Lauderdale courtroom the other day, and there is a price to pay for that.


Rumpole said...

By the way- this whole business of punishing people because they tarnish the profession is way over done. I don't see any of my clients walking out of court and telling me the judge is corrupt because of the court broom scandal 20 years ago.

Most of us recognize that in humanity there is going to be a certain percentage of bad apples- be they cops, lawyers, doctors, accountants, what have you. People need to be punished for their crimes and not this psycho babble about how they tarnished the profession. Its just a nonsensical justification for an excessive sentence.

Anonymous said...

I once again agree with Rumpole 100%...btw Rumpole, your original post says that 25 years is a "quarter of a decade." I think you mean "quarter century." See SFL's latest post for recent case law on scrivner's error.

Anonymous said...

The Federal system is all screwed up because "cooperation" takes precedence over justice.

Anonymous said...

Rumpole, here is my thought--Scott Rothstein is not sorry for what he did, he is only sorry that he got caught. His "cooperation", as helpful as it may be, was only a ploy on his part to save his ass; he was looking at life in prison if he didn't cooperate and had nothing to lose. As for his returning voluntarily, he would have been hustled out of Morocco one way or another, or whacked by one of his Mob buddies.

If you think there are not multiple ways around formal extradition treaties, you're crazy.

Anonymous said...

Rumpole, same question as from Thursday at 12:23: 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?

Any thoughts, Rumpole? Do you think there is even the slightest chance that three appellate court judges will agree with you that the sentence in unreasonable??

Anonymous said...

Rump, no sense repeating why I/we disagree with you, so let me just say.......

The fact that many people got less time than they deserved is not a mitigator in Rothstein's case or any other.


Anonymous said...

don't blame the players.....blame the game!

Anonymous said...

Rumpole, if your position was defensible, it wouldn't have taken so long to do it. The truth is short, sweet and to the point.

Example: when you steal, lie, and cheat for your own selfish interests - you forfeit your freedom.

As the soup nazi would say........ NEXT!!!!

Rumpole said...

Your position is so indefensible that it almost doesn't require any response. But any way here goes-

You would amend the state of florida guidelines to have a minimum mandatory life in prison sentence for any conviction of grand theft I take it.

And since you believe any theft conviction requires life in prison, I am assuming that you further believe that crimes of violence are worse than theft.

SO...you also want to incarcerate for life everyone convicted of any crime of felony battery or above. The US ALREADY has more of its citizens in prison than any other nation- China, Iran, North Korea included.

So really you want everyone convicted of almost anything to be imprisoned forever.

Real nice. Real thoughtful.

Anonymous said...

9:08 is right and Rumpole you are a hysterical nutcase on this issue. Nowhere in 9:08's post did the writer say liars, cheaters and stealers go to prison for life... you inserted that preposterous notion in an attempt to defend your indefensible position. Hyperbole never is a persuasive means to making your point.

Anonymous said...

Always amazes me to see the medieval mentality of many lawyers here. Without getting into deep Freudian speculation, maybe they are clients of dominatrixes and crave being locked up in a dungeon.

Anonymous said...

fuck all this talk re rothstein the world cup is here!!!!!!!! something to take our attention away from BP beshitting our environment

Anonymous said...

Where are you getting those China, North Korea and Iran stats? From their governments? Great source. If the numbers are true, they have less people in prison bc they kill them before they get there. How you give ANY country moral superiority to America is disgusting.

F/k/a CK

Anonymous said...


is not winning this debate... a lawyer who uses his bar card to steal a billion needs to marinate in a whole.

Anonymous said...

rumpole... stop being such a pussy.

Anonymous said...

KUDOS top Judge Caryn Canner Schwartz who riased money for the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society by completing the 100 mile ride around and through the Mountains of Lake Tahoe. She finished what's been billed as the "world's Most Beautiful Bike Ride" in 8:37 minutes. Jeremy, her 14 years old son, proved his natural athletic abilities by riding 65 miles without ever training. Not to shabby for someone who just celebrated a milestone birthday.

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget that the other victims here and the lawyers and staff that worked at RRA (not all of them were in on this b.s.) that were left without WEEKS of pay and got screwed. to hell with rothstein and all those other ruthless greedy a-holes.

Anonymous said...

In theory, I agree with you, Rump. But in practice I agree with those who point out your lack of protest of Phil Davis' lengthy 20 for stealing only 80K. By the Davis standard Scotty should get more than 500-1,000 years...

Anonymous said...

rumpole is such a pussy.... everything he said as to why madoff deserves 150 years applies almost equally to rothstein. the monetary amount is lower and no cooperation in madoff's case (hence lower sentence for rothstein). But madoff didn't steal from mom and pop people. He stole from rich retirees living high on the hog in palm beach. How is that any different. Madoff abused his position of trust; so did Rothstein. What is worse is Rothstein FORGED A JUDGE'S NAME - TWICE!! Rumpole minimizes it. Unbelievable. And finally, even if you make valid points here and there, I trust Judge Cohn a billion times more than I do at arriving at a "just sentence" than I do with pussy Rumpole anyday. You look at the world through skewed glasses, which is certainly your right. But as between the two men, my money is on Cohn to have a fairer view of the world.