NEW YORK — She's been hounded by news photographers, vilified by former clients of her husband and ostracized in high society.
She's also kept quiet for months _ until Monday.
Ruth Madoff _ memorably christened "The Loneliest Woman in New York" in a recent New York Times headline _ finally spoke out after her notorious husband got a 150-year sentence that probably makes certain she'll never see him again outside of prison.
"I am breaking my silence now, because my reluctance to speak has been interpreted as indifference or lack of sympathy for the victims of my husband Bernie's crime, which is exactly the opposite of the truth," Madoff said in a statement issued through her lawyer.
Prosecutors say her husband's multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme wiped out clients of his investment advisory firm while bankrolling an extravagant lifestyle for his family, including country estates, a yacht and international travel.
Mrs. Madoff, 68, hasn't been charged with a crime. But a judge's forfeiture order has stripped her of $80 million in assets including a penthouse apartment where she still lives. That's left her with $2.5 million that couldn't be linked to the fraud.
Since her husband's arrest late last year, negative publicity casting the Madoffs as soulless symbols of greed and excess has made her persona non grata at her regular hair salon, florist and favorite high-end eateries on the Upper East Side, the Times reported.
Her husband of nearly 50 years came to her defense while addressing the court on Monday, saying she "cries herself to sleep every night knowing of all the pain and suffering I have caused, and I am tormented by that as well"
Ruth Madoff, though not at the courthouse, later expressed her own sympathy for the victims.
"Many of my husband's investors were my close friends and family," she said. "And in the days since December, I have read, with immense pain, the wrenching stories of people whose life savings have evaporated because of his crime."
The statement didn't overtly condemn her husband, nor address the couple's future. But she suggested she identified with his victims who were blind-sided by his dark side.
"I am embarrassed and ashamed," she said. "Like everyone else, I feel betrayed and confused. The man who committed this horrible fraud is not the man whom I have known for all these years."