Son Of Noted Defense Attorney James LaRossa Has Written A Biography About His Dad

James LaRossa -- who was among the most accomplished trial lawyers of his generation, who died in 2014 at age 82 -- is now the topic of a biography written by his son.

Last of the Gladiators, a biography about James LaRossa.

Last of the Gladiators, A Son’s Memoir will be available on September 10.

The son of a mailman, James Michael LaRossa was born in Brooklyn in 1931. He graduated from Fordham University, including its law school, and served in the Marines during the Korean War.

He chose the legal profession because if “you really worked, you could grow without the obvious family connections, " he once said.

LaRossa considered himself one of "the last of the gladiators” — his characterization of defense lawyers — and spent decades engaging in spirited courtroom battles on behalf of mob bosses, politicians, labor leaders, and judges. He defended hundreds of white-collar criminals but his best-known cases involved Mafia bosses.

He represented Paul Castellano, boss of the Gambino crime family after he was indicted in 1985 with other alleged heads of New York crime families for comprising the Mafia Commission, which oversaw organized crime's national reach. LaRossa also defended Castellano successfully during his "pre-boss era" in a forgotten 1970s case, and in the 1980s "Murder Machine" case that involved former Gambino capo Roy DeMeo's murderous car theft ring.

LaRossa met with Castellano on Dec. 16, 1985, shortly before he and his underboss, Thomas Bilotti, were gunned down in a spectacular hit in front of Sparks Steak House in Midtown Manhattan.

The cocky, highly-esteemed Marine veteran learned his trade as an assistant U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn, and spent about four decades atop the New York defense bar defending a huge spectrum of white collar criminals and wiseguys. In the 1980s and 1990s, LaRossa won acquittals for Gambino capo Joseph (Joe Butch) Corrao and longtime associate Joseph Watts; and for Colombo underboss William (Wild Bill) Cutolo, capo Thomas Petrizzo, and their 12 codefendants.

In 1979, LaRossa represented "America’s most powerful labor racketeer," Anthony M. Scotto, the Gambino power/leader of the International Longshoremen’s Association, who was charged with extorting $200,000 from shipping companies. LaRossa got two former mayors, John V. Lindsay and Robert F. Wagner Jr., and Gov. Hugh L. Carey to praise Scotto’s character. Still, Scotto was convicted of racketeering and sentenced to five years in prison.

In 1996, LaRossa also represented Vincent (Chin) Gigante, Genovese family boss.

Former Gambino boss John Gotti, who violently succeeded Castellano, sought to hire LaRossa in 1989. Federal investigators revealed that they had taped a conversation revealing “that Gotti intended to ‘put out a feeler’ to Mr. LaRossa to act as co-counsel for him in his anticipated prosecution for murdering Castellano.” And in a letter filed in court, investigators claimed that “if Mr. LaRossa refused, Gotti would kill him.”

When The New York Times asked LaRossa about this seemingly ominous remark in 1991, he said:

“There is no doubt in my mind this was meant as a joke and no more than that. He and I have known each other for 15 years, and he wouldn’t say anything like that about me other than in jest.”

LaRossa decided to decline Gotti's offer after prosecutors told him that he might be called as a witness because of his association with Paul Castellano.

In an interview with People magazine in 1978, LaRossa said he did not mind defending someone he knew was guilty. “I’m not proving their innocence,” he said. “I’m attempting to stop the prosecution from proving their guilt.”

James LaRossa
James LaRossa, author, son.

He got the United States Supreme Court to reverse the conviction of Gambino mobster John DiGiglio (note: not Genovese; we confused him with John DiGilio), establishing the precedent that a prosecutor’s office must maintain a system ensuring that all lawyers in a prosecutor’s office have access to all information about any promises to witnesses.

Despite his success in murder cases, LaRossa said that he preferred more complex cases against white-collar defendants.

In 1991, the New York State Bar Association named him outstanding criminal lawyer of the year.

In 2009, LaRossa, suffering from health issues, finally departed New York City and moved to Manhattan Beach in Los Angeles to live with his son, James Jr. and his family.

His son, James, is the author of Last of the Gladiators, A Son’s Memoir

Cosa Nostra News received a review copy and will publish more about the book...