Quoted in the News
Mr. Lefcourt is recognized as an expert in criminal law and is regularly called upon by the print and television media to comment on legal matters. He is quoted frequently in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Law Journal, Associated Press, National Law Journal, Daily News and Newsday. He has served as legal commentator on CBS-News and appears frequently on NBC, CNN and WNET-Channel 13. A sampling of quotes on matters of public interest appears below.
“Kerry Kennedy. found not guilty of drugged driving,” The Daily News (February 28, 2014), with videotaped interviews and commentary. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/kerry-kennedy-acquitted-drugged-driving-article-1.1706141
“Past of Accused Sex Predator Dominique Strauss-Kahn May Come Back to Haunt Him,” The Daily News (May 30, 2011), commenting on the obstacles to a fair trial faced by accused IMF Chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Mr. Lefcourt is quoted extensively on the matter in the international and domestic press, including Reuters (UK) and Le Figaro (Paris).
“Conrad Black’s Last Stand,” National Post (October 20, 2009), on the Supreme Court agreeing to hear Conrad Black’s appeal of his mail fraud conviction for depriving shareholders of his “honest services”: “The statute is unconstitutional and will stuck down . . . because there is insufficient notice as to what behavior violates the fraud statute. It is so vague that it can be used to make conduct criminal that [prosecutors] may not like but which no one would understand is illegal”.
“The Art of Blackmail,” New York Times Week in Review (October 4, 2009), commenting on the recent attempted blackmail of David Letterman and specifically on the use of lawsuits to extract settlements.
“Jury Selection Questionnaire Delays Start of Astor Trial,” New York Law Journal (April 9, 2009), on the value of jury questionnaires: “It is much easier for panelists to answer tough questions in private rather than in an open courtroom. . .When questioned in open court, jurors adopt each others’ answers rather than expressing their own views.”
“Hot Under the Collar: Are You a White Collar Criminal?,” The New Republic (January 8, 2009), on making sure a white collar client understands what he is in for in a criminal prosecution: “The first thing [I do] is disabuse him of any notion that he will get special treatment in the courtroom. . . A wealthy defendant who acts entitled in the dock will not receive much sympathy from anyone.”
“Remain Silent? Some in Custody Spell it All Out,” New York Times (January 5, 2007), on advising clients to assert their rights under the Fifth Amendment to remain silent in the face of questioning by law enforcement: “Defendants may try to talk their way out of a charge, but do they succeed? ‘Never’, said Gerald B. Lefcourt, who has defended clients from the Black Panthers to Harry B. Helmsley. ‘Which is why if it’s up to me, every client I have should know they should never, ever, under any circumstances speak to law enforcement unless I’m there.'”
“U.S. Attorney Garcia Faces Tough Calls,” New York Law Journal (November 28, 2006), on the then new United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York: “Lefcourt said ‘Garcia has reinforced what [Lefcourt] called an increasingly harsh, or ‘Calvinistic’ approach to plea negotiations and charging decisions in the Southern District. One example was the recent attempt by the government to obtain a 340-year sentence for defense lawyer Lynne Stewart.'”
“The Defense Rests – Permanently,” New York Magazine (February 25, 2002), on the erosion of civil liberties and the diminished role of defense counsel: “‘We went through a twenty-year war on crime and a twenty-year war on drugs’, says activist and lawyer Gerry Lefcourt. ‘And the result is what I call “The Tyranny of Small Decisions”. Everything has gone their way. From the appointment of conservative judges to the extraordinary budgets for every aspect of law enforcement, to the astonishing volume of criminal justice legislation put forward every year by politicians frightened of being labeled soft on crime, each decision has pecked away at citizens’ rights and served to promulgate the multifaceted intimidation of the defense bar.'”
“The Today Show,” NBC News (August 31, 2000), on his relationship with Abbie Hoffman: “I received a phone call from [Abbie Hoffman] in 1968. And the person on the other end of the phone, whom I didn’t know, said, ‘I have a doctor and a dentist, but since I have three criminal cases, what I really need is a lawyer.’ And we met and we spent an entire night eating, drinking, and talking until sunrise, and he said, ‘Let’s make a pact. I will make a revolution. You keep me out of jail.'”
“Burden of Proof,” CNN (August 11, 2000), on civil disobedience: “What has evolved in this country over the centuries, really since the Boston Tea Party, is [people] certainly have a right to nonviolent protest that makes the point. . . The police have to be flexible enough to understand that protesters sometimes have to be allowed to snarl traffic, to make a point to get their message heard on TV. You know, we are no longer in the marketplace where everybody comes to the local town spot and anybody can spout off what they wish. It is only what television will cover that gets on the air. So the police have to be flexible, let them block traffic, so what? It’s not going to hurt anybody long term. It’s better than creating a situation where protesters feel their point is not getting across, their message is not being heard. And so the protesters also have to understand that, tactically they have to understand, what police might do to them, and how to regroup, and how to continue being effective. It’s a give and take.”
“Murder Trial But Not a Case for Murder,” New York Times (February 17, 2000), on charging decisions by prosecutors: “‘They always overcharge,’ Gerald Lefcourt, a criminal lawyer, said of district attorneys. ‘You throw a lot against the wall and hope something will stick.’ The hope is that by starting out too high, the jury will come back with more than an acquittal, similar to a union leader insisting on unreasonably high salary increases at the outset of a labor negotiation, then compromising.'”
“Federal Agents Step Up Pressure in Columbia/HCA Investigation,” New York Times (August 20, 1997), on the issue of the government’s use of evening home visits to potential grand jury witnesses: “‘Historically, this tactic is used to scare a potential witness into immediate cooperation,’ said Gerald B. Lefcourt, a prominent criminal defense lawyer in New York. ‘It’s like a standard tactic, and it probably works more times than anyone would like to admit.'”
“In Letter to Rape Case Accuser, Juror Assails Defense Lawyer’s Remarks,” New York Times (November 16, 1996), on the issue of the propriety of commenting to the media in high profile cases: “‘In order to answer massive damaging publicity it is the lawyer’s obligation sometimes to put forth reasonable persuasion to try and make the atmosphere fair so his client can receive a fair trial,’ said Gerald B. Lefcourt, a Manhattan defense lawyer who is the president-elect of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers”.
“Ex-Mob Underboss Given Lenient Term for Help as Witness,” New York Times (September 27, 1994), on the leniency in sentencing provided to government informants: “‘I think that this is a truly extraordinary sentence for somebody who has admitted to a lifetime of crime [referring to Sammy “the Bull” Gravano], including violence and murders,’ said Gerald B. Lefcourt, a Manhattan lawyer who is vice president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. ‘It creates the informer system, whereby if you please the Government, you go free, and if you don’t, there are Draconian sentences for almost every crime.'”
“New Standards for Drug Cases Anger Prosecutors,” New York Times (February 17, 1994), on a court ruling which changed the “knowledge” requirement for drug convictions: “Gerald B. Lefcourt, a leading criminal defense lawyer, argued that a suspect’s knowledge of the amount of contraband involved should be central to a drug case. He praised the ruling as fair and overdue. ‘The worst thing is when people who don’t deserve to be in prison are being warehoused there,’ he said. ‘People should not be put in jail for the rest of their natural lives for something they did not understand.'”