Gerald Shargel, Mob’s Criminal Defense Attorney, Dies at 77

Gerald Shargel, who has vowed to “do whatever the law allows” to defend Mafia bosses, crooked politicians and other villains he represented for more than four decades with as a savvy crime lawyer, passed away Saturday at his home in Manhattan. He was 77 years old.

The cause was complications from Alzheimer’s disease, his wife, Terry, said.

“He was the best criminal lawyer of his generation,” says Joan Wexlerformer president and principal of Brooklyn Law School, his alma mater.

More often than not, he combines deep legal scholarship with edgy courtroom stages to whitewash a group of white-collar and Mafioso clients – including John Gotti, Anthony ProvenzanoJoseph Gambino and Salvatore Gravano – whom Mr. Shargel generously not only represented but also befriended.

“Suffice it to say he put Teflon in Don,” Geraldo Rivera, a television journalist and a former classmate of Shargel’s at Brooklyn Law, said in an email, referring to Mr. Gotti’s nickname.

Mr Shargel said that getting permission to enter crowded sanctuaries like Mr Gotti’s Ravenite Social Club in Little Italy was “fantastic because it was like a movie”.

The tall, bearded lawyer was so close to some of Mafia’s clients that a federal judge, I. Leo Glasser, Removed him from representing a mob figure after prosecutors accused him of serving as a “home counselor” for an organized crime family, a charge he denies. take.

Mr. Gotti himself was annoyed with Mr. Shargel for talking too much to reporters. The boss of the mob caught eavesdropping warned his lawyer: “I’ll show him a better way than to take the elevator out of his office” (on the 32nd floor).

The message was encapsulated in the Daily News headline on the front page of April 3, 1991: “Shaddup.”

In other tapes, Mr. Gotti refers to Mr. Shargel as “an errand boy” and overhears him bragging: “Jerry says, ‘Listen, John. You know I have a love – you. ‘”

Former U.S. District Judge John Gleeson, a former federal prosecutor who is one of Shargel’s main opponents, said, “What distinguishes him most is that he not only knows his case well enough. and can plan a great defensive strategy, but also very disciplined. . “

He said that while his successful proposal to remove Mr Shargel from defense in a crowd trial “was a matter that was made public and spoke for itself, it did nothing to undermine common ground and friendship that Jerry and I found later in our careers.”

As a guilty court tactician, Mr. Shargel forced indicted witnesses to cross-examine, hurling sarcastic sarcasm that undermined their credibility and seducing juries. droopy.

When a witness explained that the accessories needed for crowd induction included not only a needle to draw blood for the swearing-in ceremony, but also a bottle of alcohol to disinfect the needle prick, Mr. Bitter way: “In other words, you’ll get into the Mafia, but you don’t want to infect your fingers? “

Mr. Shargel’s clients include murder suspects and a host of white-collar criminals.

Among them are Nicholas Barbato, the former Republican boss of Smithtown, NY, who was acquitted in 1981 for accepting a $267,000 bribe from a Long Island sewer contractor; and Stanley M. Friedmana former deputy mayor and Bronx Democratic leader and mastermind of scandals in the 1980s, who was convicted in a separate state case, but was spared an additional prison sentence in 1991.

He also represents hip-hop attacks Irv and Chris (Gotti) Lorenzo (known as the Gotti brothers) Who allegedly laundered money from drug profits through their record label, Murder Inc. They were acquitted.

Mr. Shargel demanded the truth from the brothers to bolster their defense, saying, “You have to make snowballs. I would throw them away,” Chris Lorenzo recalls.

“Jerry can move the jury and also have command of the whole law,” said Judd Burstein, who was his law partner. “It is an extraordinary combination. And his style is unique because his ability to speak before juries with a passion for rhetoric makes them want to believe him.”

Mr Burstein said: “He was never embarrassed to represent all those robbers because a criminal lawyer represented the criminals.

Mr. Shargel argued that he was no more actively protecting his clients than the government prosecuting them.

Referring to the extortion and robbery case against John Gotti Jr., the son of a famous gang boss, he said, “The Government campaign reminds me of something that Gregory Scarpa” – a member of death of the Colombo crime family – “already heard,” he said New York Times in 1999. “After killing a particular person, he was heard saying that he hated that person so much that he wanted to dig him up and kill him again. The government hates John Gotti, the father, so much that they are testing him again, through his son.”

“The client hires me,” he told The New Yorker in a 1994 filing, “because I will do whatever the law allows, regardless of how it makes me look. any.”

Gerald Lawrence Shargel was born on October 5, 1944, in New Brunswick, NJ His father, Leo, owned a paint and wallpaper shop. His mother, Lillian (Edenzon) Shargel, is the secretary of the math department at Rutgers University.

After graduating from Bound Brook High School in New Jersey, he earned a licentiate at Rutgers and graduated in 1969 from Brooklyn Law School, where he was later a professor.

While studying law, he interned at the United States attorney’s office in Brooklyn, where his only direct contact was with the logistics of the prosecutor’s office.

However, sitting in a courtroom, he became enamored with the case presented by James LaRossa, a well-known defense attorney. He joined Mr. LaRossa’s firm after studying law, working there until 1976. He then practiced Shargel Law until 2013 and became a partner of Winston & Strawn until 2018.

In addition to his wife, former Terry Krapes, he is survived by their daughter, Johanna Tobel; their son, David Shargel; six grandchildren; his mother, and his sister, Judy Shargel.

Mr Shargel has said he has been appalled by some of the violent crimes his clients have been charged with, but defense lawyers should not be motivated by whether the defendants they represent are guilty. .

“Many clients told me they were innocent, because they thought I would work harder for them,” he told The New Yorker. “Measurement is not true. It is irrelevant. The question is: Can the state prove its case?”

Benjamin Weiser and Alan Feuer contributed reporting.

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