Monday, September 19, 2011


He was a repeat client and a singular man. He wasn't "made" because he wasn't Italian. But, connected up the ying-yang. His vernacular should have been patented. Consistent exposure to his vocabulary made understanding him inevitable. Contagious, actually, for you soon began talking his language, literally and theoretically. And it endeared him to you, for, despite his lawless proclivities, he was a most likable rouge. "I've gotta talk to that guy about that thing" was a staple phrase, subject to three hundred and fifty interpretations, from which you chose at you peril. The safe reaction was to nod affirmatively and vow to figure it out, later. He was 6'4, with large hands and long fingers. All the better to choke you with, my dear. I represented him four times, in federal court, against charges of loansharking. Thus, our relationship spanned the test of time, and I got to love the guy. I'll call him "Gabe".

He once arranged for us to meet in a coffee shop at an affluent summer resort. I was early, so I sat at a table, facing the door, and waited. Suddenly, there was an eclipse of the sun. As if someone had dimmed the lights very low. There, framed in the doorway, was Gabe, his huge hulk easily blocking out all vestiges of the outside world. Customer conversation ceased. Unease filled the room. He just stood there, relishing the effects of his moment. Then, with perfect timing, he pointed at the waitress with his weapon-finger, and then at me, and half-yelled,"Get that guy a wutchamacallit and I'll have the other thing." The waitress, an obvious graduate of Gabe English High, knew exactly what to do, and did it. What an entrance!
He was being held, without bail, pending trial. I had retained local counsel (it was out-of-state) and our visits with Gabe were frequent. He had requested (read: "ordered") that I bring him two hot pastrami sandwiches on bulkie rolls, one quart potato-salad, one quart coleslaw and twelve half-sour pickles, all from a Kosher delicatessen across the street from the jail. I had just purchased a gorgeous leather briefcase for mucho loot. It pained me to put my eyeglass case in it, lest I somehow damage the pristine leather lining. This situation, however, called for a mandatory abandonment of that cleanliness standard. Never, the passage of time notwithstanding, did the odor of that food leave my briefcase. You could smell me coming a mile away. For awhile, I was called "Kosher Alch".
When we met in the attorney's room, I noticed that Gabe had a new affliction. His head was permanently twisted to the left. He claimed to have had this condition for months. Hmmmmm. You just don't ask for specifics in a case like this. You nod in sympathy and tag it for later analysis. Defense-connected for sure, but don't ask, don't tell. He would seize a sandwich with his right hand, grab his chin with his left, and force his head into a straight-ahead position. Only then would his mouth open, allowing for the introduction of food. This went on, bite, after bite, after bite. It was like watching a ballet, and, in a strange way, with an audience of two lawyers, it became a dance of fascination. He ate, pardon the expression, like a man going to the chair.
As I began going over the pertinent events, I took note of a strange noise. It was a low humming of some unidentifiable music. It was coming from my local counsel. The more my questions continued, the louder the sound became. It was now a full fledged opera. nearly shattering my eardrums. Between this and the hand-to-mouth-turning-head routine, I was on the verge of going mad. I glanced at my co-counsel with a what the f--k is goin' on here look. Still belting out Madama Butterfly, he began furiously pointing at the ceiling and walls of the room. I got it. He was shielding our conversation from the assumed "bugs" hidden everywhere. I was now convinced. I had lost my mind. I needed a drink--fast.
 Gabe had been picked up on phone taps. The Government played them for the jury. This entailed the wearing of earphones by everyone, including counsel and defendant. Cords ran from these head sets to electrical outlets set into the courtroom floor. There was very little slack, severely limiting head movement. Gabe's gaze was straight ahead, courtesy of his left hand. I was listening, very intently, to the playback when I heard a noise interfering with my hearing. It was a drumbeat, steady and, frankly, excellently performed. As if the Notre Dame marching band had stormed in. It was Gabe's elongated fingers. Brmmmm--brmmmm-brm,bm bm, banging on the defense table. I hissed, "Stop that sh-t!" He was seated to my right so he was already (and constantly) looking at me, and nonchalantly responded "While you're listening to wutsisname, I'm doin' the wutchamacallit." With my mind still bent out of shape from not being able to rid my nostrils of the smell of half-sour pickles, I furiously clamped my hand on Gabe's to stop Buddy Rich, and attempted to move my chair away from him. I was suddenly being strangled by mic wire. Gasping for breath, I saw the earphones whipped off my and Gabe's ears, and land on the bridge of our noses. The judge and jury were staring at us like two escapees from the nut house. I was struggling to breath normally again, wondering what the hell else could happen. That question was immediately resolved. Brmmmm-brmmmm-brm,bm,bm. Gene Krupa had returned.

I never lost a case for Gabe. He, in turn, became my best PR man. Many cases came my way, stamped with his referral. He was much more than just a client. When he would drive me to the airport after a victory of acquittal, he would always shake my hand and say,"That was a helluva piece of work."

So was he.


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