Michael Milken, Free at Last!

For the meal ticket of the Eighties, jail may be the only refuge from the lawyers, journalists, and charity hounds who feasted on him right up to the very end.

  1. Manhattan, November 21, 1990: The Sentencing

    Michael Milken walked into courtroom 318 at exactly 10:00 A.M., and two dozen journalists scrawled "MM looks nervous." That rare banker who had achieved tabloid fame (junk bond king begs for mercy!), Milken had long been written about as a reclusive guru, a vastly rich and vulpine manipulator—but up close he proved merely nervous. And rather humdrum. When he had walked up the courthouse steps in his dull gray suit, the onlookers seemed amazed that this wan figure was the famous Milken. "Hey, junk bond man!" they'd shouted at him, giddily. "Yo, Michael baby!" He didn't look up.

    In court now, Milken sought his wife, Lori, in the front row, his eyebrows soaring in dismay. Finding her, her white, alarmed face, he made an effort to smile toward her without catching the eye of anyone else in the huge gallery of reporters, lawyers, and epiphany chasers.

    Richard Sandler, Milken's childhood friend, personal lawyer, and self-appointed image guardian, sat beside him at the defense table with a look of dry terror. Stephen Kaufman, the lawyer brought in to ease the contentious final round of plea discussions with the government—discussions that led to Milken's pleading guilty to six counts of false filing, securities fraud, and conspiracy, and his paying $600 million in April—stood with his arms folded, his Mount Rushmore face grave. Arthur Liman, Milken's $450-an-hour lead attorney, formerly the Senate's counsel in the Iran-contra affair a...

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