January 13-19, 2017 I Our 64 th year I NO. 2 I $2.00 I libn.

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Photo by Judy Walker

The defense
Defense attorney Robert Aitchiler, at the state Supreme Court Building in Mineola, isn’t one to back down.

never rests When you’re in big trouble with the
law, these lawyers are the ones to call
Photo by Judy Walker
Supreme Court of New York

who ya gonna call?
The defense attorneys who won’t back down to deliver justice
By Adina Genn middle of complete chaos, their convictions,” Altchiler said. want to write down,” said Joseph
worlds are about to be ruined, “I enjoy a good hard negotia- Conway, a partner at the Min-
Dogged. Relentless. Willing to
and they need help,” said Rob- tion, and bare-knuckled brawling eola-based law firm LaRusso,
fight for their clients when every-
ert Altchiler, of counsel to Wolf – part of that might come from Conway & Bartling. Previously
one else has turned their backs.
Haldenstein, a New York-based growing up in Commack,” Al- an assistant U.S. attorney, Con-
These are the qualities sought
law firm where he heads up the tchiler said, noting that he’d seen way represented former Suffolk
in defense attorneys who answer
white collar and investigations his share of street fighting, and Chief of Police James Burke, as
desperate pleas for help, know-
practice group. “It could be busi- been raised by a single-mother well as Melius, and also Singh,
ing it’s up to them to get justice. ness owners being blackmailed who’d conquered addiction. You but because of a conflict had to
They’re not afraid to make en- and extorted. [I say] listen to me bring these experiences, he said, withdraw from the case.
emies, though they take pride in and do what I tell you to do. It
strong relationships with their seems dire…but it goes away and
adversaries. They don’t back no one ever hears about it.”
‘As a defense attorney you may go up against
down, even if opponents and
competitors scoff at the merits of
Of course, the public will find the powers that be. Prosecutors and others
some cases very familiar. A
their case. And they’re no strang- former Brooklyn prosecutor, may resent that you are fighting them.’
ers to challenging authority Altchiler made national head-
– many of them, as former pros- lines while representing David “to everything you do.” “It gets the adrenaline going,”
ecutors, have been the authority. LaGuercia, a Connecticut gun- Some nights, Altchiler stays up he added. “You’re meeting some-
These defense attorneys have shop owner whose store sold two until 3:30 a.m. for that “ah-ha” one who is in the worst position
represented some of the region’s guns found at the Newtown mas- moment. Those late nights don’t of their lives. They come to you
biggest headline-makers, from sacre. bother him at all if it helps gen- to do your best. It’s challenging.
Gary Melius to Harendra Singh “He was under attack by the erates good outcomes. You have to dig in, and learn the
to Martin Tankleff. federal government looking for “I really enjoy winning,” he facts, and make some strategic
A top criminal defense attorney a scapegoat, threatening felony said. “That’s my job for my cli- hard decisions on the best thing
can charge as much as $1,000 an charges and jail time,” Altchiler ents.” for this individual.”
hour, experts say, circumventing said. “He was guilty of paper- Late nights come with the ter- Conway, who considered run-
prison or helping to ensure a case work violations connected with ritory. ning for Nassau DA in 2014, is
never sees the light of day. the gun sales…but not bigger “When you’re going to trial, it’s one of the go-to attorneys that
“There are businesses that things.” almost 24-7 – you’re constantly Smithtown business and corpo-
bring me in connection with cri- “After extensive conversation involved in cases, working at rate attorney Howard Greenberg
ses or crimes committed against and negotiations,” his client faced night or waking up in the mid- said he would direct his clients
them – affluent people in the only “a couple of misdemeanor dle of the night with an idea you to if they were picked up by the
police or FBI.
Another is Robert Gottlieb,
the founding member of the
New York law firm Gottlieb &
Janey, specializing in criminal
white-collar cases. It’s easy to see
why Gottlieb, a former assistant
district attorney in Manhattan
under Robert Morgenthau, who
ran twice for Suffolk County dis-
trict attorney, perseveres in the
trenches.
“As a defense attorney you may
go up against the powers that
be,” Gottlieb said. “Prosecutors ROBERT GOtTLIEB: If you’re not willing
and others may resent that you to make enemies along the way, you
are fighting them rather than shouldn’t be a defense attorney.
playing footsies with them so as
not to upset the applecart. My ob-
ligation is only to my client and
to the law – the personalities on
the other side are irrelevant. You
make enemies along the way. If
you are not willing to do that,
then you shouldn’t be a defense
attorney.”
And in this line of work, trust
goes a long way.
“I make clear to anyone I rep-
resent that they must be totally
honest and candid and open with
me,” Gottlieb said. “The only way
I can properly protect someone is JOSEPH CONWAY: ‘You’re meeting some-
one who is in the worst position of their
to know the truth. If I go down
lives. They come to you to do your best.’
one avenue based on a lie from a
client, you expose the client to a
prosecutor who can affirmatively
show that the defense is base-
less.”
But that trust has to be devel-
Photo by Judy Walker
oped, he said.
ROBERT ALTCHILER: ‘I really enjoy winning. That’s my job for my clients.’
“The client has to see you are
prepared and willing to fight for after being wrongly convicted of you’re successful, it’s tremen-
him or her until there’s no breath impersonating a police officer, dously gratifying, and you hope
left in you, that you’ll fight to the pulling drivers over and robbing their child will go on and do great
death,” he said. them at gunpoint. She was re- things.”
Anthony Grandinette, a Mine- leased from jail in 2010 after the And when cases don’t work out,
ola-based defense attorney, said
DA found that an ex-boyfriend some defense attorneys remain
he fights “tooth and nail” to “help
framed her. hopeful.
exonerate the innocent.” ANTHONY GRANDINETTE: fights ‘tooth and
“Obviously there’s a saying, Gottlieb, who was Martin
A former Nassau County prose- nail’ to ‘help exonerate the innocent.’
‘Anyone can indict a ham sand- Tankleff’s “trial attorney on the
cutor, Grandinette said, “My firm
wich,’” Grandinette said. “We case that was televised gavel to
represents people who have been ued effort to rectify the terrible
falsely accused and in many in- start with the premise that peo- gavel” in 1990 said, “The case [in
ple make mistakes.” which Tankleff was wrongly im- wrong.”
stances signed confessions about Of course not everyone can af-
crimes they didn’t commit.” Some ask him, “‘How can you prisoned for his parents’ murder]
defend these people?’ meaning created controversy and tension ford a top attorney’s hourly rate,
“I’m grateful for the police and though ideally, these seasoned
admire the police, but I’m a re- criminals,” he said. “There are right from the beginning.”
many wonderful people in life “There was an overwhelming veterans have the connections
alist,” he said. “No institution is
that make mistakes. And not ev- feeling of injustice – a sense that and the expertise to resolve cases
immune from having bad apples.
If we bury our heads in the sand, eryone who gets arrested is a bad something terribly wrong had oc- efficiently.
we’re morons.” person.” curred, and I said it at the time, Some take on pro bono work.
Grandinette’s clients include When Grandinette tells clients’ ‘I only hope that I would be alive “It’s part of my obligation as an
Seemona Sumasar, a Queens parents, “I’m willing to take on the day that Marty walked out of attorney,” Conway said.
woman who may score a $2 mil- this case no matter how hard it jail,’ and I was there in court 15 Altchiler said he gives back by
lion settlement in her civil suit is because I believe in your child, or 17 years later when he walked teaching law students, taking
against Nassau County and a they are eternally grateful. You out of jail,” he said. It was an pride “for every client that they
police detective for serving time do the best you can, and when “injustice that required contin- help.”