"Madoff secretary gets 6 years after judge cites ‘small stature’"


When I came across the headline above in yesterday's New York Post, I thought that while "small stature" was an odd way to characterize the role of Madoff's secretary in his massive fraud, it did make sense that someone who played a small role in the scheme would get a lighter sentence than other people.


Alas, after reading the full article I see that Judge Laura Taylor Swain -- who the Post made sure to point out is herself roughly 5 feet, 3 inches in height--did not provide Madoff secretary Annette Bongiorno with a lighter sentence than what even Bongiorno's own lawyer asked for because of the "small stature" of her role in the scheme. Rather, her decision apparently was based on the fact that Madoff’s tiny former secretary stands just 4-feet, 6-inches tall.


In announcing the lenient sentence, Judge Swain explained that Bongiorno's "age and her unusually small stature might also put her in a vulnerable position in a prison facility.” The Post noted that Bongiorno had previously obtained a court order from Judge Swain to sit in a smaller-sized chair during her trial because regular chairs make her back hurt.


The Post reports that while Bongiorno faced up to life in prison after being convicted on securities fraud and tax-evasion charges related to the Madoff Ponzi scheme, her lawyer had asked Judge Swain to sentence her to no more than eight to 10 years in prison. Federal prosecutors, on the other hand, requested that Judge Swain sentence Bongiorno to more than the 20-year prison term recommended by the U.S. Probation Office. These lengthier requests notwithstanding, Judge Swain concluded that the facts and circumstances of Bongiorno's case, including her "unusually small stature," should result in only a six-year sentence.