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Update: Madoff Stays Out of the Slammer

Lucas Jackson/ReutersLast week we wondered why disgraced financier Bernard Madoff was ordered to remain under house arrest rather than go to jail. Federal prosecutors seemed to have the same question: After Madoff allegedly mailed a million dollars' worth of jewelry and other items, they filed a motion to revoke the conditions of Madoff's bail and detain him until trial.

As we explained, if the government wishes to deny a defendant his or her liberty before trial, it must prove that the defendant is a danger to the community and poses a serious flight risk. Earlier today, Magistrate Judge Ronald Ellis denied the prosecutors' motion because the government "has failed to meet its legal burden."

"The issue at this stage of the criminal proceedings is not whether Madoff has been charged in perhaps the largest Ponzi scheme ever, nor whether Madoff's alleged actions should result in his widespread disapprobation by the public, nor even what is appropriate punishment after conviction," Ellis wrote in his opinion and order (PDF). "The legal issue before the Court is whether the Government has carried its burden of demonstrating that no condition or combination of conditions can be set that will reasonably assure Madoff's appearance and protect the community from danger."

The judge did impose new restrictions on Madoff. In addition to the current bail terms -- the $10 million bond, surrender of Madoff's and his wife's passports and Madoff's 24-hour home detention -- Ellis ordered Madoff to provide the government with an inventory of "valuable portable items" in his Manhattan penthouse and submit his outgoing mail to search.

"The conditions imposed for release are unique in their own right, and appear reasonably calculated to assure Madoff's appearance when required," Ellis wrote.

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