Willy & Sal, Episode 4 (Sidebar): The Best Defense Money Can Buy

The million-dollar defense team: Albert Krieger, Martin Weinberg, Roy Black, John May and Frank Rubino, Ed Shohat, and Jeffrey Weiner
The million-dollar defense team: Albert Krieger, Martin Weinberg, Roy Black, John May and Frank Rubino, Ed Shohat, and Jeffrey Weiner Miami New Times photo
Editor's note: This story was originally published in the December 14, 1995, issue of Miami New Times as one of two sidebars that accompanied "The Trial of Willy & Sal," then-staff writer Jim DeFede's longform feature story about the first federal trial of "cocaine cowboys" Willy Falcon and Sal Magluta, AKA Willy and Sal.

If there was one moment that best highlighted the difference in style between defense attorneys Roy Black and Albert Krieger, it occurred on the very first morning of jury selection. Krieger rose solemnly from his chair, almost seeming to bow before his audience of prospective jurors.

"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen," he began, his voice booming off the courtroom's wood-paneled walls. "My name is Albert J. Krieger, and I, together with Ms. Susan Van Dusen, will be representing Mr. Falcon, who is seated in the next chair. And immediately to his right is D. Robert Wells, an associate in my office."

When it was Black's turn, he sprang up, smiled, and said, "Good morning, folks. My name is Roy Black. I'm one of Sal's lawyers."

Before representing Willy Falcon, Krieger was Mafia boss John Gotti's attorney. Considered by many to be one of the kings of cross-examination, his seminars on that subject draw lawyers from across the nation. His technique is to wear down a witness methodically. As one attorney notes, Krieger doesn't aim for the jugular with his queries; he picks smaller veins, bleeding a witness to death slowly, one simple question at a time. But it is his lofty — some might say pontifical — manner and his clean-shaven head that most people remember.

With his laidback manner and relaxed demeanor, Black has had his share of high-profile cases as well, successfully defending Miami police officer William Lozano in the shooting death of motorcyclist Clement Lloyd and William Kennedy Smith on charges of rape. Attorney and trial consultant Robert Hirschhorn, who worked with Black on the latter case, says jurors look at Black and believe he is telling them the truth. "He has an affidavit face," Hirschhorn says. "It just reeks of the truth."

Joining Black and Krieger is Martin Weinberg, a Boston attorney who has successfully argued cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. He has represented Falcon and Magluta off and on for seventeen years A including the times in the late Seventies and early Eighties when the pair opted not to file tax returns, arguing that accurately reporting how much money they made (and how they made it) would violate their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Weinberg is by far the most intense member of the defense team. When he questions a prosecution witness, his fingers often become clenched, the muscles in his forearms strained, as if he is fighting back the impulse to throttle the person on the stand.

Representing the government are Christopher Clark and Pat Sullivan. Clark, a six-year veteran of the U.S. Attorney's Office, has been tenacious in his pursuit of Falcon and Magluta, spearheading the case for years. However, except for his opening statement, his courtroom demeanor has been rather flat, especially in comparison to his defense counterparts. He has also managed to arouse the anger of the judge more than any other attorney. During the testimony of one witness, the judge had privately counseled the attorneys not to raise a particular issue. And yet Clark's first question touched on that very subject.

Sullivan, who holds the rank of senior litigation counsel — one of the highest positions in the U.S. Justice Department — has been a federal prosecutor for 25 years. Among his victories was the conviction three years ago of Panamanian strongman Manuel Antonio Noriega. It is Sullivan who has brought a sense of passion to the prosecution's case.

Black, Krieger, and Weinberg — and the half dozen other attorneys who are assisting them — aren't saying how much they will earn in fees for this case. But after four years of filing enough pleadings to fill 22 volumes in the clerk's office, and arguing some legal issues all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, the tab could easily exceed two million dollars.

The prosecutors' earnings are no mystery. Clark's salary is about $97,000 a year, Sullivan's about $100,000.

Originally published in the December 14, 1995, issue of Miami New Times. Click here to return to the main story.
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Jim DeFede
Contact: Jim DeFede