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Coutinho: Reading Between The Lines Of Judge Rakoff’s Ruling

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(credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

(credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

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By Rich Coutinho
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I hate talking about and reporting the legal-ese of the Madoff case, but yet another ruling came through today and so I once again called my legal contacts to interpret what it all means. After all, this is case that could have a profound impact on the Mets and their fans.

The ruling stated that the trustees could get as much as $83.3 million without a trial due to fictitious profits. I am told “as much as” is an interesting way of putting it and could mean less than $83 million. Then there is the trial part of this equation which will begin to play itself out in the next few weeks. In the ruling, Judge Rakoff states that he is still skeptical that the trustee can rebut the defendant’s contention that they were not aware of any Ponzi scheme nor were part of the scheme.And that is a key component of this according to lawyers I have spoken to about the case.

One lawyer said, “Judges sometimes put the as much terminology in rulings like this so future judges could adjust the amount based on the way the case turns out. In this case, I believe the trial will dictate the amount.” Of course, this case will be decided by a jury — not judges — and that makes the end result of this trial, anyone’s guess. Most lawyers I speak to believe that the “burden of proof” will be difficult for Irving Picard to prove, but public sentiment about the Wilpons and the Mets could have an impact on the jury decision. Jury selection could be the biggest aspect of this trial.

So what does this all mean for the Mets? Simply put, the case will still decide their fate. The $83 million is a large amount of money for sure, but an additional $303 million might force Bud Selig’s hand in a way $83 million will not. My contacts at MLB have always felt the case was a huge issue at $1 billion and I think $83 million might be viewed as something they can live with as long as the Wilpons repay their loan in short order.

An additional $303 million might not sit well, and as I have said all along, that is the rub here for the Mets.

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