- Associated Press - Thursday, March 12, 2020

NEW YORK (AP) - Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff wants to make a “dying, personal plea” by telephone to a judge to request early release from his 150-year prison sentence, his lawyer said Thursday.

Attorney Brandon Sample told Judge Denny Chin that Madoff, 81, and confined to a wheelchair, should be allowed to contest claims by prosecutors that he has failed to show remorse for his decades-long scheme to cheat thousands of investors out of billions of dollars.

Prosecutors filed papers last month in Manhattan federal court opposing the request by Madoff for compassionate release. They noted that 500 victims opposed early release for a man suffering from kidney disease. Only 20 letters were written by victims in support of release, prosecutors said.

The federal Bureau of Prisons has agreed that Madoff has less than 18 months to live but has denied early release on the grounds that it would minimize the severity of his crime.

Chin, who still presides over the Madoff case even though he is now a federal appeals court judge, sentenced Madoff in 2009 after the once highly respected financier admitted to squandering $17.5 billion entrusted to him by investors worldwide. A trustee has recovered nearly $14 billion for investors.

Sample said the judge would benefit from “hearing directly from Mr. Madoff about his acceptance of responsibility.”

“Allowing Mr. Madoff to give what is, in effect, a final dying, personal plea is imminently 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.”

Madoff has been serving his sentence at the federal prison in Butner, North Carolina.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Drew Skinner said in a one-paragraph letter to Chin Thursday that he took no position on Madoff’s request to address the judge.

But he said any acceptance of responsibility by Madoff would be “self-serving and of limited, if any, evidentiary value.”

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