Although he appeared to be a great flight risk -- having bilked by his own admission $50 billion from victims of his Ponzi scheme, and having (likely) stashed millions away in safe accounts for rainy days to come -- Madoff was released on $10 million bail.
Yes, there he was, sauntering from his $7 million apartment in the Naked City and trekking to his even posher digs on the Island so Long.
Laughing all the way, Madoff was (cf. the photos of him leaving the courthouse), jolly as the white-bearded man in the bright red outfit, whose activities were by legend more of the giving than the taking variety.
And what would the Honorable Judge Bruce Wright be thinking, rest his soul, if he were still among us?
Surely he would be directing our thoughts to the legions of far from wealthy but also, like Madoff, presumed innocent arrestees awaiting trials in New York.
Judge Wright once called Rikers Island -- the city's waiting place for those who cannot afford bail -- a veritable zoo for outcast Blacks and Latinos.
Wright was hated for what he said and believed. "Turn 'em Loose Bruce" the tabloids used to call him, because of his contention that bail should not be a means of incarcerating the poor before they are found guilty, or (for that matter) freeing the rich before they are declared innocent.
Wright paid a price for his faithfulness to his reading of the law. Back in those days of old -- wait a minute, it was just two decades ago! -- he received death threats. He was harassed by police officers. He once was delivered a package of feces.
Cool, if tight-faced, when on the bench, he once had to be carried out of the courtroom after an ulcer attack.
There were not many like him, Judge Wright. He was a published poet, a garrulous story-teller, a walker of the streets of the city. And he loved to tell painful truths with a laugh.
He often spoke of how, when he was first approached (by then Mayor John Lindsay) about becoming a judge, he told the dear mayor that judgeships were, by his understanding, very expensive and he didn't think he could afford to by one. He was appointed to the bench, nonetheless.
Later in life, when a less friendly mayor, Ed Koch, refused to reappoint Wright to the Criminal Court, Wright ran for an elective Civil Court position, and he won by a margin that astounded politicos of that day (some 30 years ago).
Harlem, Judge Wright's base, had never seen a campaign so populist, so full of focused fury.
And of course his self selected nickname in that battle was: Yup, Civil Wright.