For generations of prosecutors, Robert Morgenthau was “The Boss.” The three of us served as heads of the District Attorney’s international bureau, known informally as DANY Overseas. Even after he retired 10 years ago, he remained a strong presence in our lives, calling to discuss his latest cause—assisting immigrants, getting someone off death row or helping support his kids at the Police Athletic League or fighting anti-Semitism and neo-Nazi activity as chair of the Museum of Jewish Heritage. He had slowed down a bit; his hearing wasn’t great; but his mind was sharp; his passion for justice was great; and he well remembered who had stood up and who had not, over many decades. We and the thousands of others who had learned their craft and their ethics from the Boss were certain we would be celebrating his centenary and can hardly believe he is gone, mere days before his 100th birthday.
He knew everyone, but no one ever got a break on a case that they did not deserve on the merits. Mr. Morgenthau kept everyone honest. He believed and repeated that “you cannot prosecute crime in the streets without prosecuting crime in the suites.” In a democracy, he believed, that is critical.
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