Friday, August 15, 2014
Lawyers Who Stand For Something
(The Legal Dream Team, From L to R: Gary Asteak, Phil Lauer and Mark Minotti)
District Attorney John Morganelli has confirmed with The Morning Call that even if Nazareth's feared Sticker gang was sent his way by Magisterial District Judge Jackie Taschner, he would have dismissed the charges. He is a First Amendment purist, and has been as long as I've known him. It goes back 20 years, when Morganelli dismissed trespassing charges against Susie Ravitz and other LEPOCO members who were leafleting Palmer Post Office sidewalks with anti-war materials an tax day. Palmer police were furious at this dismissal, which took courage. Morganelli was taking an important stand, one he has maintained through all his years as a prosecutor.
But it takes even more courage for the guys on the other side of the aisle, the defense lawyers. Look at flamboyant criminal defense lawyer Gary Asteak. He represented Daniel Logothetis, a nice young man whose mother had been told by Police Chief Cupcake Trachta that she couldn't even talk to her own son. Though Daniel works, he could never afford to pay Gary's fee. Gary has a Nazareth office, and accepting this case could mean a few more inspections here and there. It could mean that he'll be accused of running a stop sign or red light in town.
But Gary took the case. He was unfazed when Trachta refused to shake his hand. He slammed Trachta for coaching Troxell out of the judge's earshot. He withstood Trachta's dagger stare. He established that Trachta had conned a person into becoming a victim after charges had already been filed. Most importantly, his cross established that nobody was really sure just who placed those stickers anywhere.
What he did took courage. It may not be the kind that gets you a silver star, but it is the kind that tells us all to stand up to bullies, whether they are in a schoolyard or police department.
Gary's fellow Dream Team members, Mark Minotti and Phil Lauer, were standing at Gary's side. They did not have tazers, guns, handcuffs, radios and bulletproof vests. Their weapon was much more powerful - the Constitution.
After it was all over, you'd think they had just won a million dollar verdict. It was better. They fought the good fight, and won.
It actually made me want to be a lawyer again.