Kathleen Kane’s Lawyer, Gerald Shargel, Was Once a Lawyer for the Mob

And The New Yorker called him "one of the most brilliant criminal-defense attorneys in America."

Attorney Gerald Shargel | Photo by Louis Lanzano/AP

Attorney Gerald Shargel | Photo by Louis Lanzano/AP

Attorney General Kathleen Kane has apparently used her twin sister as a decoy, called press conferences and then refused to answer questions, and been criminally charged for allegedly trying to exact revenge on a political enemy by leaking top-secret grand jury information to the Philadelphia Daily News.

She is, if nothing else, a character — and she’s got a lawyer to match.

Gerald Shargel has worked as an attorney for actress Amanda Bynes, won the acquittal of Mafioso John Gotti, and been described by The New Yorker as “a criminal lawyer considered quite possibly the finest of his generation.”

And now, he is representing Kane in a case that could not only destroy her political career but also put her behind bars. Kane has been charged with perjury, conspiracy, official oppression, false swearing and obstructing the administration of law over the alleged leak to the Daily News. Since a judge ruled this week that Kane will face trial, we thought it was a good time to look into Shargel’s bio. Here are some key juicy facts:

• He was an attorney for Mafia bosses John Gotti and Salvatore Gravano. And calling him “an attorney” for them is probably an understatement. Shargel, along with lawyer Bruce Cutler, famously represented Gotti when he was acquitted in 1990 on all charges in the shooting of a carpenters union leader. A federal judge described Shargel and Cutler as “house counsel” for the Gambino crime family. And Gotti said Shargel once told him, “Listen, John. You know I got one love — you.”

In a 2011 article by Super Lawyers, Shargel fiercely (and colorfully) defended representing the Mafia:

“I think that my interaction with, whether it be John Gotti or Salvatore Gravano or any other member of organized crime, was appropriate,” he says, adding: “If some Mafia gangster decides to become a government witness and cooperate with the government, then law enforcement embraces those people.” He points to a nearby book, We’re Going to Win This Thing, co-authored by former FBI agent Lindley DeVecchio. “DeVecchio makes the argument that in order to be effective as an FBI agent, you have to get close with the people who are cooperators, form relationships. You see that all the time.”

To do its job, the FBI needs to get close to the mob. To do his job, Shargel needs to get close to his clients. To Shargel, there’s no difference.

“Someone,” Shargel says, “once asked me, ‘Isn’t a criminal trial a search for the truth?’ And I said, ‘It’s a search for the truth, but I’m not part of the search party.'”

• He once had his life threatened by Gotti. It wasn’t all love between Shargel and Gotti. A terrific profile of Shargel by the New Yorker details their complicated relationship. The magazine reported that FBI recordings revealed that Gotti called Shargel and Cutler “Muck and Fuck” and “high-priced errand boys.” Gotti complained, “Was it you that put me on this earth to rob and make you rich and me poor?” And then, of course, Gotti threatened to kill Shargel. His exact words, caught by an FBI microphone, were, “I’m gonna show him a better way than the elevator out of his office!”

A 199X article about Shargel by The New Yorker.

A clip from the 1994 article about Shargel by The New Yorker.

• He was the target of a years-long federal investigation. The authorities thought Shargel’s relationship with Gotti was cozy enough to warrant a closer look. He was never charged, however. “The government abandoned the investigation. There wasn’t a drop of evidence that I had ever committed an offense of any kind,” he told Super Lawyers. “I was never disciplined or sanctioned in any way by any bar committee.”

He’s represented oodles of wild people. Gotti is hardly his only interesting client. Shargel has also worked as an attorney for Oscar Wyatt, Jr., an oil baron from Texas who pleaded guilty to giving illegal payments to Saddam Hussein’s regimeJoe Halderman, who pleaded guilty to attempting to extort David Letterman; and, of course, Bynes, whose charges tied to throwing a bong out the window were dismissed last year.

• He’s seen as the best in the business. The New York Times called him “a top trial lawyer with a successful white-collar practice” and “a celebrated career.” The New Yorker said “he is considered one of the most brilliant criminal-defense attorneys in America.” And, according to his law firm Winston & Strawn, Shargel has been “selected as a ‘Top 100 New York Super Lawyer’ four times since 2006,” “included in the U.S. News – Best Lawyers ‘Best Law Firms’ rankings for 15 consecutive years,” and described by the New York Council of Defense Lawyers as someone whose career “has been marked by numerous examples of a lawyer fighting for a client with vigor, dignity and expertise.”

During Kane’s preliminary hearing Monday, Shargel was a captivating presence. He was energetic and quick and somehow managed to work a laugh out of Magisterial Judge Cathleen Kelly Rebar. He also said the single most memorable thing from the four-and-a-half-hour-long hearing. It had to do with “thousands and thousands” of pornographic emails.

Officials said Kane’s case could go to trial sometime next year. If nothing else, it should be entertaining.

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