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Judge wonders if Madoff is a 'danger'

Bernard Madoff was in court on Monday, where prosecutors asked a judge to revoke his bail. Bernard Madoff was in court on Monday, where prosecutors asked a judge to revoke his bail. (Kathy Willens/Associated Press)
Associated Press / January 7, 2009
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NEW YORK - A judge who will decide whether failed Wall Street financier Bernard Madoff must await trial in jail rather than under house arrest says he wants to know whether the ability to commit economic harm can make someone like Madoff a danger to others.

Prosecutors gave Magistrate Judge Ronald L. Ellis their answer in the form of a letter yesterday, but the letter was not immediately made publicly available. Madoff's lawyer owes written arguments to the court today.

The judge had asked lawyers on both sides during a bail hearing Monday to submit arguments this week to help him decide whether Madoff should be jailed before trial. Madoff has been under house arrest at his multimillion-dollar Manhattan penthouse with an electronic bracelet and 24-hour guard.

Prosecutors asked Monday for Madoff's immediate jailing, saying he and his wife violated a court order by sending jewelry and antique watches worth more than $1 million to relatives and friends over the holidays.

Assistant US Attorney Marc Litt said the action violated a freeze of Madoff's assets and demonstrated a danger to investors that he might dissipate assets. Madoff was arrested in December on a securities fraud charge after the FBI said he confessed to ripping off investors. Authorities say he told his sons he ran a $50 billion Ponzi scheme.

The judge asked lawyers on both sides to research whether Congress had explained over the years whether economic harm can represent a danger to the community.

Madoff's lawyer, Ira Sorkin, argued that the expensive jewelry and watches were sent by Madoff's wife, who was not subject to a court order when she mailed them Dec. 24.

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