High-profile criminal defense lawyer Gerald Shargel dies at age 77

The legal world is marking the loss of a legend with the passing over the weekend of Gerald Shargel, who notably spent over 40 years doing whatever it took on behalf of high-profile criminal defendants, including a number of notorious Mafia crime bosses, as the New York Times reports.

According to Shargel’s wife, Terry, the renowned attorney, 77, died due to complications of Alzheimer’s Disease at his Manhattan home.

Shargel’s courtroom career was studded with his headline-making representation of underworld crime figures such as John Gotti, Joseph Gambino, Salvatore Gravano, and Anthony Provenzano, to name a few, and he once declared his willingness to “anything that the law will allow” in securing acquittals for his clients.

According to an obituary in Lawdragon, Shargel was a 1969 graduate of Brooklyn Law School, and it was not long before he discovered a passion for criminal defense and trial advocacy, especially when representing the type of clients other attorneys might not touch.

Speaking to the New Yorker for a lengthy profile back in 1994, Shargel explained that in many instances, he was personally horrified by the sorts of offenses of which his clients were accused, but that those sentiments simply could not play a role in how he did his job.

“A lot of clients tell me they’re innocent, because they think I’ll work harder for them,” Shargel said. “That’s not true. It’s irrelevant. The question is: Can the state prove its case?”

In a 2012 interview, Shargel offered further explanation of his professional drive and determination, saying, “I like the action of high-profile cases. I’ve been fortunate to have a disproportionate number of high-profile cases. You know, walking into a packed courtroom, or walking into a courtroom where another room has a closed-circuit feed because the first room has filled up, to cross examine somebody under those circumstances – well, if you don’t like that, you don’t want to be a trial lawyer.”

Looking back on Shargel’s life’s work, longtime colleague Nick Gravante said, “Regardless whether you loved or despised his clients, one thing one which everyone could always agree was that he was perhaps the best criminal defense lawyer of his generation. Trying a case seemed like an almost effortless experience for him because he was so skilled and it came so naturally to him.”

In addition to legions of grateful clients as well as his wife, Shargel is survived by one daughter, one son, six grandchildren, his mother, and a sister, and he will assuredly be remembered as one of the most effective advocates ever to set foot in an American courtroom.