NEW YORK, NOV. 13 -- Former junk bond whiz Michael Milken apologized for his criminal acts and asked for the chance to rebuild his life in a letter to the judge who could sentence him to a maximum of 28 years in prison.

"I did break our nation's laws," Milken said in the 11-page letter to U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood. "I allowed myself to get too caught up in what I was doing to consider the consequences or to stop myself from doing what I knew was wrong. For that I am truly sorry and ashamed."

Milken, the former head of the high-yield junk bond division of Drexel Burnham Lambert Inc., said he would be unable emotionally to speak at his sentencing and offered the letter as an alternative plea for mercy.

His letter, dated Nov. 5, was filed in court today after portions were deleted to protect the privacy of Milken's children.

Milken pleaded guilty to six felony counts earlier this year. A sentencing date has not been set, but it is expected to take place later this week or early next week.

While Milken did not specifically ask to be spared a prison sentence, he spoke of his fear of incarceration and his desire to continue working with disadvantaged children. An earlier memo filed by his lawyers proposed a sentence of community service in the ghettos of Los Angeles.

Much of Milken's rambling letter was about his love for his family and the loss of privacy he and his wife, Lori, and children experienced during the past several years.

"Let me return to a life of anonymity if humanly possible for myself and my family," he said. "I think I can accomplish more by blending back into society and quietly seeing what I can do."

Milken also claimed he had been falsely represented as a symbol of the greed and power that swept the financial world during the 1980s.

"I am a person, not a symbol," he said. "I, like other individuals, have strong beliefs and ideals and as I have acknowledged by my plea before your honor, I have made mistakes.

" ... My priorities today are different," he said. "It's hard for me to conceive of ever having the desire to enter into a commercial transaction again. I don't see that changing in the near future."