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Archive for Saturday, March 7, 2009

Madoff plea may happen next week

March 7, 2009

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— Bernard Madoff has taken steps that suggest he could plead guilty as early as next week to charges that he carried out one of the biggest financial frauds in history, lawyers said Friday.

Madoff, 70, is waiving his right to have a grand jury hear the government’s case against him, agreeing instead to be charged directly by prosecutors, a step defendants take when they are preparing to plead guilty in a case.

Late Friday, U.S. District Judge Denny Chin called on potential victims who wish to be heard at a Thursday plea hearing to notify the court a day earlier. Madoff could enter a guilty or not guilty plea that day, depending on whether he has reached a plea deal with the government.

It is unclear when a possible plea deal could occur, and negotiations could still fall apart. Madoff has a hearing in Manhattan federal court scheduled for next week that could serve as the venue for a guilty plea.

A potential plea deal could mark an important step toward answering the vexing questions about how Madoff carried out his sweeping scheme and who else may have been involved in a fraud that has wiped out investors’ life savings around the world.

The U.S. attorney’s office first suggested Friday that a plea was imminent when it filed a brief court document indicating Madoff was ready to waive an indictment. One of Madoff’s lawyers said he had already done so. A waiver of indictment is a necessary procedural step before a defendant enters a guilty plea.

Prosecutors have a deadline of next Friday to bring an indictment against Madoff under the speedy-trials law.

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