'Soft Screw' Barred From Madoff Lieutenants' Trial

Sep 27 2013 | 10:30am ET

Jurors will not get to see some of the more colorful evidence prosecutors had mustered against five former employees of Bernard Madoff.

Most notably, U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain ruled this week that jurors could not be shown a sculpture of a screw that Madoff kept in his office. Defense lawyers worried about the "colloquial inference" the artwork, "The Soft Screw," held, although they did not specify which inference—prosecutors have alleged that "one of the defendants was involved in a love triangle with Bernard Madoff himself."

Swain also ordered prosecutors to "see if you can get that screw out of the pictures" of Madoff's office, suggesting that they "Photoshop it out." Prosecutors were also barred them from mentioning the suicide of Madoff's younger son or about some luxury items bought by the defendants—with one exception. They will be permitted to discuss a beach house purchased by Joann Crupi with a $2.7 million bonus. Crupi, one of the five defendants, handled the Madoff firm's daily cash balances. Swain also denied a motion seeking to bar the details of the alleged "love triangle."

Also facing trial on Oct. 7 are former Madoff operations director Daniel Bonventre, Madoff secretary Annette Bongiorno, and computer programmers Jerome O'Hara and George Perez. All are charged with assisting in Madoff's $65 billion Ponzi scheme.

Swain said she would allow Bongiorno, who is "diminutive in stature," to use her own chair, rather than the standard courtroom chairs, which would be "uncomfortable" over a possible 12-week trial.

Jury selection will actually begin next week, when a jury pool will complete a questionnaire.

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