Looking back, however, lurking just below the surface was a person so fearful of failure and so terrified of ever having to struggle the way his parents did, that it translated into an acute anxiety disorder that was, at times, debilitating, and for which I continue to seek treatment today. Moreover, I now realize that it translated into an underlying set of character defects and personality flaws that would ultimately never allow me to accept any type of failure on my part. These traits would lay dormant for many years, held in check by the countervailing principles that were the foundation of my family upbringing, until my ego allowed them to manifest themselves in the form of an individual so narcissistic that I would do anything to avoid any type of chink in my armor; anything that would make me look less than uber-successful and perfect in every detail.
The fear of being recognized as unworthy is a powerful and dangerous motivator. It’s what drives lawyers to deny the possibility that they might have been wrong when they blow a critical call in a case. It’s what drives people to buy that BMW they can’t afford. It’s what makes strong men cry in the privacy of their room.
Rothstein offers, at numerous points in his letter, that his conduct was inexcusable and he deserves no concession from the court or those he’s harmed. Yet, he states:
I understand that this Court must, and I expect it to, sentence me to a significant term of years. I only ask that you deal with me fairly and that based upon the fact that the record now exists, from my decision to return from Morocco and all that I have done since, that I am truly a changed man and that I have sincerely tried to redeem myself, that you consider giving me an opportunity to live at least part of the remainder of my life as a free man with an opportunity to do some good in this world. I will never forgive myself for what I have done nor do I expect anyone else to forgive me. But I will spend the rest of my life doing everything in my power to make right all the harm I have caused and to restore my family’s good name as best as G-d will allow.
A changed man? Sure, as is every man in prison. It’s amazing how the epiphany comes after the fall. Redeemed himself? Not yet. Not even close. Redemption doesn’t necessarily happen to coincide with self-interest.
But it’s his last four words that are most striking: as G-d will allow. Notice (as is obvious) that he replaces the “o” with a dash, to show the depth of his religious beliefs. This isn’t the only mention of God in his letter, where he earlier notes that he sought guidance from God to help him out of the mess he created. It’s an odd view of religion where God can be invoked to coverup crime.
It’s said that religion is the last refuge of the scoundrel.
Few lawyers, like Scott Rothstein, burn with the desire to be the biggest, best, most admired, most envied lawyer around, so much so that they would engage in a wild Ponzi scheme to accomplish it. But how many of us have just a little bit of the Rothstein in us, enough to buy that fancy car to show how successful we are, or lie to a client and conceal an error because we can’t admit we’re human. And as for being the wealthiest, most successful guy around, forget it. There is always someone wealthier, more successful. It was never worth the effort.