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Proposed cuts would allow a Madoff to avoid prison in California, Cooley says

Stevecooley Los Angeles County’s top prosecutor has warned that a budget proposal by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger would so weaken court sentencing guidelines that if a swindler such as Bernard Madoff were to be brought to justice in California he would not face state prison time.

In a letter obtained by The Times, District Attorney Steve Cooley has asked Schwarzenegger to abandon his proposal to change state sentencing guidelines so certain felonies such as fraud or grand theft, known in justice circles as "wobblers," would be prosecuted as misdemeanors.

Facing a $24-billion budget shortfall, Schwarzenegger has proposed the change in sentencing guidelines to save $1 billion over three years by shifting 23,000 criminals from state prisons to local jails and re-entry programs.

"If Bernie Madoff had committed his crime in California under the proposed statute, his … scam which has destroyed countless lives and fortunes, would have been a misdemeanor," Cooley wrote to the governor. "Such scams are commonplace in California."

Today, Cooley’s office is joining Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner in Los Angeles in also warning that the proposal would decrease the penalties for insurance fraud.

"This drastically reduces investigators' ability to locate, investigate and prosecute costly insurance fraud and related crimes," Poizner’s office said in a statement. Cooley questioned whether the prisoner reduction goals would be met and said such sweeping changes require a thorough review.

"The arbitrary reduction of the 73 crimes listed in your most recent budget proposal will have a serious impact on public safety, disproportionately affect many vulnerable victims in society, and usurp the role of the public prosecutors in determining what crime to charge," Cooley wrote in the letter, dated June 17.

A representative of the governor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

--Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

Photo: Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley. Credit: Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (10)

No No No No No No No!!!!

California should cut all the perks, free car, free gasoline,free benefits to all the STATE EMPLOYEES, State Assembly and
Senate to CUT DOWN the COST first, before cutting the
benefit to the elders and disable, poor
Shame on ARNOLD who claimed to change the system 8 years
ago, he should never expect another election to any public
Cut down the salaries and perks for all non-profit organization
execs or tax them, IT IS THE ABUSE
Release all the non-violent criminals to save the COST

Why don't we release the vast numbers of prisoners held for smoking pot, and let the real criminals serve time?

come on, patrick, do a minute's worth of research. Big financial crimes are prosecuted in federal courts, not state courts. The guilty go to federal prisons, not state prisons. Madoff will never go near a state prison, no matter where the feds try him. Cooley's argument is a total crock.

You don't need the governor's office to tell you that.

And if the choice is gang-bangers and drug dealers on the street or nickle-dime fraud perps, I say keep the violent criminals in prison and let the white collar guys walk -- just shake 'em down for every penny they own. Arnold's right on this one.

You have three choices:

1) Allow people to go free that you don't want to.
2) Pay for their sentences
3) Shut up.

I would rather have #1, because although many people don't want to see nonviolent offenders go free, I think it's probably for the best, considering how violent our prison system and how not oriented towards rehabilitation it is. Find something that actually works and do it... but otherwise, if you don't want to pay for it, just shut up, because there aren't many options considering the economic situation we find ourselves in.

More hysteria from the tax-loving morons at the LA Times. Please try to hide your agenda a tad more cleverly next time.

Any time scam artists like Madoff, Milken, & others perpetrate these "Crimes", they should always do 'Hard in the General Population, NOT Country Club CLUB, nor should the seriousness of the nature of the destruction of 100's & 1000's of lives, jobs, & ruined financial lives be reduced down to favor theses Type$.
Thefts of this nature are High Crimes. Reducing anything about these crimes, as far as I am concerned is the result of Pre-Arranged Double-Standard System that is = to Aiding & Abetting by design in the Law for well-heeled Criminals.
On the current problem where the deficit & costs are concerned, it's as easy as searching the jails, & giving an Early-Out to a Financial Crimes Convict however many times necessary to ensure the likes of Madoff will do Long Hard Time.
SO, there really is an Easy, Practical, & Workable way to fit The-Likes-of-a Madoff into the State Budget.. A state would do it to a common citizen criminal, and therefore has the responsibility to do the same in any case or person despite a Defendants wealth, status, favors owed, or connections.

Woohoo. Once again, the failure of our human race rears its head.

We can't afford to put prisoners away, we can't afford (in ways other than financial) to let prisoners out, and we especially can't start executing more prisoners (it would cut costs, but our society suffers too much corruption and stupidity to do it right).

The ONLY option is to start changing the way people think about life. We need to get it out of people's head that anything less than a Ferrari and a mansion is failure.

We need to start thinking about quality, not quantity.

This change has to start from the inside out. Hah, good luck with that. Almost every employer out there is already filled with such stupid people that it's nearly impossible for smart people to get a job (smart goes beyond simply memorizing engineering, medical, or law principles. It's the ability to think.)

Just look at the bigger companies like Careerbuilder promote job hunting. The same old garbage. Wear a suit! Provide a cookie-cutter resume! Don't fidget! Wow.... talk about pathetic.

Hey, let's all dress and act like all the political and executive failures in life! Good idea!

Liars. Google Penal Code 186.11. (a) (1) Any person who commits two or more related felonies, a material element of which is fraud or embezzlement, which involve a pattern of related felony conduct, and the pattern of related felony conduct involves the taking of, or results in the loss by another person or entity of, more than one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000), shall be punished, upon conviction of two or more felonies in a single criminal proceeding, in addition and consecutive to the punishment prescribed for the felony offenses of which he or she has been convicted, by an additional term of imprisonment in the state prison as specified in paragraph (2) or (3).

Before the 'Net they could get away with these lies. No wonder they want to rgulate the 'Net.

Mr. Cooley, this is a shameless lie! Looking tough on crime is not what the public wants to hear! We want solutions that protect us from violent offenders and a time that fit the crime for the rest! Why can we afford the incarceration for life for 690 drug users, 350 shoplifters and 181 for receiving stolen property? This is the same mentality that has broken the state with a 10.6 billion dollar corrections budget! All we really want is common sense! The time should fit the crime!


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