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To use a sports cliché, there are two sorts of players in the world: those who don’t want a game riding on their shoulders, and those who do. Deborah Goldklang wants the ball. When she was in college, she led the University of Pennsylvania’s soccer team, where she was good enough to be named later to the Ivy League’s all-women’s silver anniversary soccer team. But with no pro women’s league available in 1994, she started down a different path. Three years later, fresh out of the University of Virginia School of Law, Goldklang was cranking out briefs in the litigation department at New York’s Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. She was stimulated, but frustrated. “I was able to actually walk into the courtroom to hear them argue,” she recalls, “but I wasn’t the one arguing.” Impatient after eight months, she left for a clerkship with U.S. District Judge Alfred Lechner Jr. in Newark, N.J. Her goal: a job across the street with U.S. Attorney Faith Hochberg, where she would — finally — get up “on my feet, arguing in court.” And a year later, despite encouragement from Lechner (who is now with Morgan, Lewis & Bockius in Princeton) to return to Skadden, she landed a spot in Hochberg’s office. Under Hochberg, Goldklang was immediately assigned to second chair for Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles McKenna on a stalking case, United States v. Van Wyk. The accused, Roy Van Wyk, had spent more than a decade harassing victims. Some of them moved across the country to avoid his letters. Goldklang and McKenna persuaded Judge William Bassler to allow the first use in the United States of a “forensic stylistics” expert. So-called stylistics examines the content of writing, as opposed to its physical appearance. That novel use of an expert witness helped convict Van Wyk, who got a 15-year sentence. The pair each received a Directors’ Award from the attorney general for their ingenuity. “It’s an honor that I think that a lot of prosecutors who are here 25 years don’t receive,” says Goldklang, who had been in the office all of three and a half months. Currently, Goldklang, 31, is shepherding the prosecution of 11 individuals resulting from the investigation of Rene Abreu, a campaign fund-raiser for former U.S. Sen. Robert Torricelli, a Democrat, and other top New Jersey officeholders. Duties on the case are split between her and Carlos Ortiz, head of the Fraud Unit. Forty-seven indictments have been handed up, covering extortion, bribery, and tax evasion. Four people — including Abreu’s lawyer — have pleaded guilty. The case involves six to 12 prosecutors at any given time and has netted one Hudson County politician after another. In several cases, Goldklang and her colleagues found people paying bribes to politicians in return for contracts. The prosecutors then persuaded bribers to cooperate secretly with the feds, sometimes wearing wires, to snare other perpetrators. It’s fair to say there isn’t an elected official in the state who isn’t watching and waiting for the next development, but Goldklang is closemouthed about where the probe is going next. “People who commit crimes in Hudson County should be wary,” is all she will say.

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