Madoff's attorney receives death threats

The lawyer for the alleged Ponzi scheme operator says he has received a number of virulent emails.

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By Allan Chernoff CNN senior correspondent

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Bernard Madoff's defense attorney Ira Lee Sorkin tells CNN he has received death threats and virulently anti-Semitic hate mail.

One e-mail Sorkin received last week states, "I deeply regret that the Sorkin family did not perish in the Nazi death camps." The sender wrote "As one Jew to another." CNN sent an email to the originating electronic address but received no reply.

Other e-mails to Sorkin call the defense attorney a "No good bastard Jew" and ask why he is representing a thief and someone who should rot in hell.

"These people need to take Civics 101," Sorkin told CNN. "It is extremely disappointing that people who should know better have no understanding of the role defense lawyers play in preserving our system of justice."

The senders display a "lack of understanding of the constitution and bill of rights and how it applies to everyone," Sorkin added. "As for the remarks I can only have sympathy for these people who treat this representation as some religious quest."

Sorkin, a lawyer with the firm Dickstein Shapiro is among New York's high-profile defense attorneys specializing in securities law. He is a former chief of the Securities and Exchange Commission's New York office.

Madoff is charged with operating a massive investment fraud in which he allegedly used new funds from investors to pay redemptions to other investors, a so-called Ponzi Scheme that may have cost clients $50 billion by Madoff's estimate.

At a hearing scheduled for Thursday at U.S. District Court in Manhattan, Madoff is expected to plead guilty. The criminal complaint charges him with one count of securities fraud, which carries a maximum term of 20-years in prison. Sorkin would not comment on Madoff's plans for Thursday, saying only, "You'll hear it in court."

Madoff and Sorkin are also scheduled to appear in court Tuesday afternoon for a hearing involving a potential conflict of interest for the defense attorney.

Sorkin told the Government he invested $18,860 with Madoff in the early 1990s through a retirement account that had been set up with his former law firm that was later transferred to another brokerage firm in 1995. Also, Sorkin's late father held an account with Madoff, the proceeds of which were eventually distributed to trust accounts for Sorkin's two sons.

Sorkin also has represented a Florida accounting firm, Avellino & Bienes, which invested with Madoff. Madoff is expected to waive the potential conflicts and tell the Court he is satisfied Sorkin is appropriately representing his interests. To top of page

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