Bernard Madoff, the New York con man whose $20 billion investment scam collapsed during the last financial crisis, said justice won’t be served if prosecutors succeed in keeping him imprisoned even though he’s dying from kidney failure.

His attorney is urging a judge to grant him a so-called compassionate release, saying that retribution alone isn’t a sufficient reason to keep him behind bars in his final days. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York had pushed back on the request earlier this month, saying he didn’t deserve a break after carrying out the biggest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history.

“A criminal justice system that respects human rights not only ensures accountability for those who commit crimes, it also makes certain that sanctions are proportionate to the crime and further the goals of incarceration,” Brandon Sample, Madoff’s lawyer, said in a court filing late Wednesday. “Keeping a prisoner incarcerated past the point of serving a legitimate purpose begs the question of whether our motives are driven by retribution, deterrence, or something else.”

Madoff last month asked the judge who sentenced him to 150 years in prison to let him out after just 10 years, saying he’s dying of end-stage kidney failure. Prosecutors are compiling letters from victims responding to Madoff’s request, and they’re likely to be made public. The government asserted that Madoff could still live longer than the 18 months estimated by the Bureau of Prisons.

“No one can know for certain how long Madoff will live; however, while he could live longer than 18 months, he could also die before that time,” his lawyer said. “Indeed, past statistics show that numerous inmates have died while seeking compassionate release.”

Madoff’s lawyer compared his client to the so-called Lockerbie bomber, who killed more than 270 people in a terrorist attack and was released after just eight years in jail because he was dying from cancer.

“Despite the horrific nature of his crimes, he was granted compassion,” Sample wrote.


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