This was in the days of my fast-track youth. I was the partner of the most famous criminal attorney in the country, bar none. We travelled, to where we had to be, in his Lear jet. The first drinks were poured in the midst of a mach 2 vertical takeoff. It was the big and very exciting time for me. I was 38 years old and on the cusp of great episodes in my life. My skills were ultra sharp and still being honed. My cup runeth over with self-confidence. I was where I had always dreamt about. I raced to work each day, put in a minimum of 12 hours, had a pop or two, and went home singing, waiting impatiently for the cycle to renew. Really big cases, in many states, extensively covered by the national media. Intoxicating stuff for a young man. I could part the Red Sea.
But the essence of all of this was a learning process, a maturation with its own slippery slope. I was feeling my oats; nothing could stop me.
The incident I'm about to relate is true in every detail. It was a reckless and foolhardy thing to do, as I now reflect on it, but the memory still evokes a sentiment of daring and excitement which still turns me on. The cop inside my id couldn't stop me, and, truth be told, I'm glad I did it.
We represented an imprisoned and aging Mafia Don who had been convicted of murder and sentenced to life. I will not supply his name for it is embedded in the folklore of organized crime in Cleveland, Ohio. HINT: SEE THE MOVIE "KILL THE IRISHMAN" FOR CONCLUSIVE CLUES.
During his trial, the prosecutor was allowed to hammer home, in his closing, the fact that the defendant had not testified in his own behalf, which served as the last nail in our client's coffin. In those days, it was not error to do that and it was, obviously, the prosecutor's most deadly weapon. Today, it's an automatic mistrial--an absolute no-no, with the D.A. severely sanctioned. Our Petition for Habeas Corpus was predicated on that ground.
The case was to be heard in the Cleveland Federal District Court. Because of the lawyers involved, the issues presented and the notoriety of the defendant, the courtroom was packed with family members, spectators and hordes of media affiliates. We entered and vigorously shook the hand of our client to the sound of hundreds of cameras being snapped. This was a big deal in Cleveland.
We both argued the case with much vigor and emotion, wrapping ourselves in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. We pulled out all the stops and the media recorded every word. After both sides had presented their positions, the Court took the matter under advisement, we again shook the hand of the Don and walked into the hall. My partner explained that he had to fly to Chicago on another case and that, therefore, I was to fly home commercially. He dashed into a waiting car and I walked down the courthouse steps, looking for a cab. I was suddenly surrounded by the local CBS affiliate reporters who asked me to come to their studio and shoot a T.V. interview for their 5:30 news slot in the hope that it would be picked up by Walter Cronkite's CBS EVENING NEWS. My answer: CERTAINLY!
Before hailing a cab, my trained eyes sought out a bar near the courthouse. I had learned that in every city or town, there is a bar near whatever court you've been in. You could spot it yourself or simply follow the line of criminal defense attorneys who could sniff out a bar in the Sinai Desert. I perched on a stool at the tavern of choice and wolfed down a double vodka and tonic. The bartender's name must have been "Heavy Handed Harry" because the establishment lost money on this drink. Whee! What a nice little pick-me-upper. Into the mouth and over the gums, watch out stomach, here it comes. I was O.K.
I cabbed to the studio where everybody was waiting for me, ready to get started. I sat in my chair and was quickly miked while the interviewer sat across from me. He seemed a bit nervous but not so the technicians, camera men sound and lighting people. These were the pros who had been there, done that and they were outstandingly cool.
The interviewer suggested that we get right to it and advised me to relax and to speak the truth. A tall guy in back suddenly said,"We're on in five, four, three, two and his finger pointed. The red light on the camera went on and we were shooting.
"Tell me, Attorney Alch, do you think your efforts today will result in the release of your client?"
A soft lobbing pitch right over the plate, begging me to hit it out of the park. I smiled, took a deep breadth and suddenly, the bad boy inside me offered a response which lit my fire. It was something I had fantasized many times and always wondered if I would have the courage to do. Perhaps greased by the liquid fortifier and the turn-on of being live, on the air, I decided to go for it, lest I never have the chance again.
I sat up straight, allowed the question time for digestion, brought a smile of kindness to my eyes and, in a firm voice, pregnant with conviction, said,"Personally, I don't give a f--k!"
The questioner's face froze in sweaty white. But those cool camera men, sound guys,etc. dropped straight to the floor and began rolling around, giving forth bellowing sounds of unrestrained, straight from the gut, hysteria. I was so goddamn tickled with what I had done, I was impervious to negativity.
The interviewer snapped out of his trance and fired,"For all you knew, that could have been a live feed to the network!" My reaction was to join in the cascades of laughter still convulsing those cool cats of the crew.
I'm afraid that I can't file this away in the Lessons Learned folder. I'm much older now which supposedly makes me wiser and more conservative. but, I must confess, me being me, that were the same opportunity to present itself again, I'd pull the same trigger.
How bad can a thing be, if it serves as a dynamite story over the years, the passage of time, notwithstanding. If that's who you are, grab and hold onto it. A memory keepsake.