| NEW YORK, March 24
NEW YORK, March 24 When it came down to it, the
evidence was simply too overwhelming.
That was what several jurors said on Monday after they
convicted five former Bernard Madoff associates of helping to
conceal his multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme.
The verdict -- guilty on all counts -- came after just 20
hours of deliberations, which paled in comparison to the trial's
extraordinary length. At more than five months, it was one of
the longest white-collar criminal trials in the history of the
federal court in Manhattan.
But the jurors, interviewed after the verdict, said there
was never really any doubt in their minds about the outcome.
"It was the overall picture," said Sheila Amato, an art
teacher from Rockland County, a suburb of New York City. "The
facts speak for themselves."
The five employees -- back-office director Daniel Bonventre,
portfolio managers Annette Bongiorno and Joann Crupi and
computer programmers Jerome O'Hara and George Perez -- claimed
they believed Madoff's business was legitimate and were fooled
into becoming unknowing accomplices.
Starting in October, the jurors heard approximately 40
witnesses testify and saw thousands of documents admitted into
evidence, creating a trial transcript that reached 12,000 pages.
The closing arguments stretched nearly 25 hours over two weeks.
In all, the jurors had to determine a verdict for 59
individual charges, with Bonventre alone facing 20 different
counts of securities fraud, conspiracy, bank fraud, filing false
tax returns, and falsifying records.
Craig Parise, a fifth-grade teacher from Westchester County,
another New York suburb, said the fact that the fraud persisted
for so long made it hard to believe that the defendants, some of
whom worked at the firm for decades, were completely unaware.
"It would be different if it was a four-month Ponzi scheme,"
he said. "When it was 40 years, it's very hard to overlook
Defense lawyers tried to undermine the government's star
witness, Madoff's top deputy, Frank DiPascali, by painting him
as a career con man with a talent for deception that rivaled
only that of Madoff himself.
But the jurors said they found his testimony credible and
"It was pretty captivating," Amato said of DiPascali's
testimony. "It wasn't scripted."
That stood in contrast to the testimony from Bongiorno and
Bonventre, who both made the unusual decision to take the stand
in their own defense. The jurors emphatically rejected their
claims that they had no idea what was going on.
"I don't think it helped their case," Parise said. "It was
slightly insulting. I think there was a lot of coaching going
Another juror, Nancy Goldberg, an instructional assistant
for at-risk students from Westchester, said the defense lawyers
had done as well as they could without much ammunition.
"They didn't have much to work with," she said.
The trial's length forced some attrition in the jury box,
with two jurors and two alternates excused because of illness or
travel plans. After one juror was forced to leave in the middle
of deliberations, the judge decided to move forward with only 11
members, a rare but not unheard of occurrence.
Gloria Wynn, a church pastor from the Bronx, expressed
relief that the grueling case had ended.
"It was a long trial, and I'm glad it is over," she said.
Goldberg, Amato and Parise, who all work in education,
became close friends, commuting together on the train.
Some of the jurors passed the time during lunch breaks by
watching "The Chew," a cooking-themed talk show on ABC, in a
jury lounge inside the courthouse.
All the jurors exchanged phone numbers and email addresses,
Parise said, and Goldberg suggested a reunion on Oct. 2.
"That was our first day here," she explained.
(Editing by Eddie Evans and Christopher Cushing)