Wearing a black T-shirt (it was designer, probably Ed Hardy; I don't know clothes), designer jeans, a pair of silver-colored handcuffs in U.S. Magistrate Judge Robin Rosenbaum's courtroom today, Scott Rothstein rose from his chair and got ready for his trip to federal detention.
I asked Rothstein, whose hair was grayer than I've ever seen it, how he felt. He looked at me, nodded, and winked.
Rothstein was charged with five criminal counts -- racketeering, conspiracy to commit money laundering, mail fraud, and two counts of wire fraud -- that carry a maximum 100-year sentence. The feds put the value of his Ponzi scheme at $1.2 billion.
His attorney, Marc Nurik, didn't fight federal prosecutors' recommendation that Rothstein be placed in pretrial detention, saying the "sheer volume" of documents involved in the case made it "impossible" for him to be prepared to make an argument against the government. Nurik also waived Rothstein's right to
be charged by indictment.
Judge Rosenbaum granted the government's request for pretrial detention, saying Rothstein was a flight risk, especially since he could spend the rest of his life in jail and was known to alter and forge documents, a skill she said could help him make an escape.
Rothstein was also arraigned today and pleaded not guilty.
In his argument to hold Rothstein in federal custody, Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Schwartz gave a broad outline of the case, mentioning Rothstein's settlement scam and his forging of judges' signatures in the $57 million swindle of car dealer Ed Morse, crimes Schwartz said "go to the heart of our judicial system." Schwartz pointed out that Rothstein fled to Morocco and wired $16 million to a Morrocan bank account. The prosecutor also said that Rothstein took with him about $500,000 cash on his flight to north Africa.
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Rothstein stood for much of the hearing, answering "Yes, your honor" repeatedly as Rosenbaum asked him the standard questions about his understanding the charges, his rights, etc.
As the hearing was about to end, Nurik mentioned that Rothstein needed prescribed medications while behind bars and said he was told that he could provide cas for Rothstein's commissary account at that moment. U.S. marshals said that wasn't the case, that it could be put in later. "We were, as they say, misinformed," said Nurik, who later said he wanted to put $500 into Rothstein's account.
That's when Rothstein rose and turned and faced about a couple of dozen reporters there who crammed the courtroom.