A defiant criminal-defense lawyer speaks for himself, though his testimony is largely a fan letter to his favorite client, a man “who’s achieved a certain stature,” the late John Gotti.
Brooklynite Cutler was the devoted son of a onetime cop who became a lawyer for street guys. He too found his calling in the law, first as an assistant D.A. (homicide) and then in practice with media-savvy Barry Slotnik. Through Slotnik he met the Dapper Don. Cutler, quite a natty fellow himself, found a kindred spirit in the charismatic mobster (please insert “alleged” before that word, as the author consistently does). With attention to the press and inborn chutzpah, Cutler soon represented the Don. Never one for research or detailed motions—other lawyers do that—he determined to control the courtroom and everyone in it. He savored the notoriety and excitement even more than the money. The text, light on legal analysis, is filled with characters on both sides of the law. (Treated with particular disdain is Sammy Gravano, never a stand-up gent like Uncle John). Was there ever a Mafia? Cutler thinks it’s a figment of prosecutorial excess and press hysteria. Alternatively, if Cosa Nostra ever did exist, it was simply some street guys with self-destructive lifestyles. Tapes from the Ravenite hangout? Twisted, misconstrued, he says. John’s language was operatic, but he was always blameless, stalwart, and honorable. The crime busters finally jailed Gotti by disqualifying his attorney. Cutler just had to defy a gag order, and thus for a while he wore a 24-hour monitoring bracelet. For all his bluster, he does manage to artlessly deliver the core message from the defense table: just because the government says it’s so doesn’t make it so. Perhaps a little skepticism is sometimes advisable. Anyway, that’s the attitude that walks the clients.
Obviously ready for a film or TV treatment: the theatrical mouthpiece is still defending the accused.