That is the sentence that lawyers for Bernard L. Madoff asked a judge to impose on their client, who has confessed to running what may be the biggest Ponzi scheme in history.
In a letter to the court, the lawyers said there seemed to be an atmosphere of “mob vengeance” surrounding Mr. Madoff. They urged the court to consider that he essentially turned himself in, rather than continuing the fraud or fleeing the country, when he described the $65 billion scheme to his sons in December.
Since then, they said, he has cooperated fully with his bail conditions and helped investigators in their efforts to recover funds for his victims.
In addition to talking with federal investigators, Mr. Madoff has met with the Securities and Exchange Commission’s inspector general, who is investigating how regulators failed to detect the fraud. Mr. Madoff is also expected to speak “to the shame he has felt and to the pain he has caused,” his lawyers said, at his sentencing hearing, scheduled for Monday in Federal District Court in Manhattan.
Mr. Madoff, 71, has a life expectancy of 13 more years, according to general estimates from the Social Security Administration cited by Ira Lee Sorkin, Mr. Madoff’s lawyer from the firm Dickstein Shapiro.
Using that figure, Mr. Sorkin said, a prison sentence of 12 years would “sufficiently address the goals of deterrence, protecting the public and promoting respect for the law without being ‘greater than necessary.’ ”
Other white-collar criminals have received longer sentences than Mr. Sorkin is asking for his client. Samuel Israel III, a founder of the Bayou Group, a hedge fund, was sentenced to a 20-year prison term for cheating investors out of $450 million.
In other white-collar crime cases: Timothy J. Rigas, former finance chief at Adelphia Communications, is serving a 20-year prison term; Bernard J. Ebbers, the former WorldCom chief executive, who was 63 at the time of his sentencing, received 25 years; and a former Enron chief executive, Jeffrey K. Skilling, was sentenced to 24 years.
More than 100 victims of Mr. Madoff’s scheme have filed emotional letters with the court, nearly all of which asked Judge Denny Chin to give him the harshest sentence that the law allows.
Mr. Madoff “should never see the light of day, and in fact be sentenced to hard labor,” said Jerry Reisman, who represents 16 victims of the scheme. “The sentence must be a deterrence to others.”