Giuliani: The Passionate Prosecutor

Attorney Rudolph Giuliani snares mobsters and headlines

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Giuliani's father, who ran a small pizza restaurant in Brooklyn and set about teaching his son to box almost as soon as the boy could make a fist, instilled in him a hatred of bullies and an anger at the way in which a few Italians had besmirched the name of a great culture. Unlike many Italian Americans, Giuliani makes a point of using the term Mafia. He has no tolerance for those who say it does not exist. "By using the word Mafia correctly," he says, "you actually help to end the unfair stereotype. By playing word games and denying reality, you increase the prejudice. The most effective way to beat down the prejudice," he says resolutely, "is to beat them down."

Giuliani's early glory days were the five years he spent as an assistant U.S. Attorney, beginning in 1970. His lapidary cross-examination of Democratic U.S. Representative Bertram Podell of Brooklyn, who confessed on the witness stand to conspiracy charges, and his relentless hammering away at undercover cops on the take established the leitmotivs of his career: the passionate prosecution of public corruption and organized crime. While serving a stint in the Justice Department during the Ford Administration, he completed his gradual metamorphosis from a Robert Kennedy Democrat to a registered Republican.

After four years in private practice, Giuliani went to Washington in 1981 as the Reagan Administration's No. 3 man in the Justice Department, responsible for the entire criminal division, including all 94 U.S. Attorneys. He became a prime mover of the Government's efforts to coordinate federal and local efforts to fight organized crime. To Washington insiders, it just did not make sense when he decided in 1983 to give up such a high position to return to New ) York as one of the prosecutors he once administered. But to Giuliani, it was like being executive vice president of the Yankees and someone saying, How would you like to play center field?

Giuliani supervises 130 lawyers, about 90 of whom are in the criminal division. For young attorneys, the Southern District is the place. Competition for jobs is intense; nearly all of those chosen made law review at the most prestigious law schools. Every morning at 9, the heads of the various units sit in green leather chairs around Giuliani's desk, which resembles a display counter in a second-hand store selling Yankee memorabilia. Giuliani, his presidential-seal cuff links gleaming, his manner radiating enthusiasm, listens to each of their reports. The mood is one of seriousness seasoned by banter. At one recent session, the corruption-unit chief tells him that the state is thinking of bringing an indictment in a case that the Southern District has been investigating. "I think they should back off," says Giuliani firmly. The head of the general-crimes unit mentions two cases involving drug dealers; one got an eight-year sentence. "That's pretty good," says Giuliani.

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