Friday, May 15, 2020

RIP Albert Krieger (UPDATED with incredible stories from the judiciary and the bar in the comments)

UPDATE -- please take a moment and read the comments, which have wonderful stories and touching memories from judges and lawyers who saw Albert in action (including from Scott Srebnick, Judge Federico Moreno, Judge Milton Hirsch. Marty Weinberg, Jeffrey Kay, and many others).

This is a really sad one... Albert Krieger, one of the founding fathers of criminal defense, has passed away at 96.

After I saw him in court for the first time, I said to myself: "I could never be that good."  His voice.  His demeanor.  The way he crushed cooperating witnesses.  And he was so engaging out of court.  Happy to sit down with young lawyers and guide them.  If you had to craft a criminal defense lawyer, it would be Albert. He inspired so many of us. He will be missed.

He has defended some of the biggest cases in America, including John Gotti and Sal Magluta.  In the Gotti case, he was opposite John Gleeson, the lawyer that was just appointed in the Flynn case.

Check out Albert in this Charlie Rose interview. Classic Albert.  At the 9:30 mark, he explains why he decided to represent Gotti.  And at the 16 minute mark, he explains why maximum security prisons are unacceptable in a civilized society. He will fire you up! The guy was the best.

I will be posting stories and memories of Albert as they come up.  Please either email them to me at or post them in the comments. 


Stephen Bronis said...

One of the greatest trial attorneys of our times. He was a leader and champion of the criminal justice system in our country. Al was always available to provide words of wisdom, encouragement and support. May he rest in peace.

Sam Rabin said...

Albert was the consummate gentlemen and one of the finest lawyers of his generation. His ethics were beyond reproach. His preparation left no detail to chance. For any lawyer who litigated a case with him (or against him), it was an incredibly educational, enriching and rewarding experience.

Edith Georgi said...

Albert was the reason I went into criminal law. I had the privilege of interning at his progressive office on Brickell in1980-81. Remember sending the first ever pleadings on the internet (???) when he was litigating in Vegas. He was so kind! Then I was Luise’s senior Atty at PDO. One act of kindness I’ll never forget, he spent an entire day with me fashioning a letter of recommendation for a position at UM. His heart had no boundaries. His ethics had no exceptions. His soft but booming voice had nothing but wisdom. What a privilege to have known him. ��

Peter Raben said...

My condolences to his family.
Albert and Susan hired me out of the Public Defenders Office; they were wonderful mentors and for 2 years, they were my family. When dinosaurs roamed the earth, he was T Rex. His voice was an instrument, and his credibility was unimpeachable.
His kind are of a bygone era, and, to our detriment, no longer exist.
Peter Raben

Anonymous said...

The answer at 7:00 is one of the most important answers I have ever seen - might you have done anything different?

AK was a man to emulate.

Robert Kuntz said...

One of the last stories I wrote at The Review was an extensive profile of Al.

What a giant; what a gentleman.

In reporting for that story, I read a trial transcript where he was crossing the government's lead witness. Something like 70 questions in a row where the main prosecution witness had to answer "Yes," or "Yes, sir" or "That's correct" to the defense attorney. Masterful in a way that I didn't truly appreciate until I became an attorney.

Larry Kerr said...

Here is just one of my Albert Krieger memories...

It must have been the late 1980's or early 1990's. I watched Albert give an opening statement in the central courtroom of the old federal courthouse. There was a visiting judge from New York presiding over the trial.

I don't remember what Albert said in his opening, but it did not sit well with the judge. The judge immediately stopped Albert, chastised him in front of the jury and instructed him, in no uncertain times, to not do that again.

When the judge was finished his mini-rant, the master did not miss a beat. Albert seized upon the judges lecture/instructions/criticism by looking each and every juror in the eye and saying something like "...You think this is easy. I have to defend my client, which the evidence will show is not guilty, against the United States of America and all of their power, resources, unlimited finances, etc. And now, 10 minutes into my opening statement, I have the judge objecting to what I said. But, ahhhhhh, that's why we have all of you. The jury. You are the real people in this courtroom with the real power. You will make the ultimate decision, after listening to all of the evidence..."

The jury IMMEDIATELY loved Albert. Some jurors smiled. Some jurors relaxed in their seats. All jurors could not wait to hear what Albert would say next and how he characterized the evidence about to be presented.

Rest in peace Albert. You had the satisfaction of knowing that you taught me and many others how to be a real and proud criminal defense attorney.

David Markus said...


“Albert, how did you become a criminal defense lawyer?”

Albert Krieger, Neal Sonnett, and I were having lunch at The Palm in Coral Gables (which tells you how long ago this was), and Neal asked the question that had probably occurred, at one time or another, to every criminal lawyer in America. What was it that started Albert Krieger down the road to becoming . . . well, Albert Krieger?

Turns out that back in his salad days, back when Albert was just out of law school and taking anything that walked in the door, back when he was wondering if he’d ever represent anyone to whom he wasn’t related by blood or marriage, his best (because only) repeat client was a guy named “Benny One-Eye.” (Albert leaned forward, adopted his most conspiratorial air, and added, “I don’t know how he got that name. He had two perfectly good eyes.”)

Benny operated some laundromats. When he bought or sold one, Albert did the write-up work. Not glamorous, but it paid the rent.

One day Benny told Albert he had some very good news for him: Benny was sending Albert a client who had a big criminal case, and plenty of money to pay for it. This, although Albert couldn’t admit it to Benny, was anything but good news to Albert. He couldn’t possibly accept the case – he had never so much as seen, much less litigated, a criminal case. But he couldn’t, he absolutely couldn’t, tell that to Benny’s friend. Benny was the closest thing Albert had to a referral source.

So Albert came up with a terrific idea: He would quote the case out of the office. He would quote a fee so high that the client wouldn’t hire him, but would at least go back to Benny impressed with him.

The client arrived. Albert adopted his most knowing air. When they reached that point when the client asked how much all this was going to cost, “I thought up the biggest number I’d ever heard of.”

“Five hundred dollars,” said Albert; and waited for the body to drop.

The client took a roll of bills out of his pocket, peeled off $500 – which didn’t make much of a dent in the roll – and put the fee on Albert’s desk. Then he patted Albert on the arm and assured him if he did a good job, there would be more. (I guess clients used to do that sort of thing.)

Neal couldn’t wait. He interrupted the narrative. “So what did you do?”

“So what did I do?” Albert was already smiling, because he liked the way this story was about to end. “I went home, handed the $500 to Irene, and said, ‘Honey, I’m a criminal lawyer now!’”

And that’s how the greatest criminal lawyer in memory got started.

Anonymous said...

Milt, thanks for another legendary Albert Krieger story.

David Oscar Markus said...

From Jeffrey Kay:

The bar has lost a great lawyer very sad to hear this news.

I grew up on the a south shore of Nassau County, Long Island in the town of Massapequa. The area where I lived was called Harbour Green Estates down on the Great South Bay. One of our neighbors down the street was a young gregarious lawyer by the name of Al Krieger! As a teenager I was older than Al’s children but knew him as he was a fellow fisherman at the local Harbour Green Boat Club and his boat was tied up across from my dads. As a great fishermen Al would always engage us in fish talk and what bait he used . He was always outgoing and warm to the young guys at the marina. We knew him as a lawyer but he was more to our community as he was involved in our beach club and always trying to do things for the kids in our area.

The years went by and I became an AUSA in the EDNY (1976-1979) and of course who do I run into but Al one day at the court house in Brooklyn. My fellow AUSA’s were rightfully intimidated by him and his booming voice, but I walked up to him and introduced myself to him and said “ Harbour Green boat club” and his eyes light up and he even recalled the name of my dads boat! That was Al, I recall one case with him while I was there and he would tell everyone he knew me as a kid. What you missed was the great interchanges in court between Al and the wonderful Judge Weinstein, they would go back and forth on legal issues and it was like sitting in a law school classroom as the two titans went at it with the greatest respect for one another.

Fast forward to 1979-2012, I am an AUSA in Fort Lauderdale and of course I run into Al, in the second floor open area, he walks over to me and gives me a big booming “hello” in front of the world there and everybody is looking at me like , how do you know this legend! Every time we would see one another at the courthouse or our office he was warm and outgoing and we would not talk law but about the old days in Massapequa.

What an immense legal talent and I used to love his first move in the courtroom when he rose began to speak in that voice that resonated off the walls and captured everyone’s attention in the room, a man with class, dignity, and grace doing his job, a true master.

One if the great ones!

Jeffrey Kay

David Oscar Markus said...

From Judge Federico Moreno:

As a judge, I do not have a Google account to submit comments for the obvious reason. But I will be remiss if, through you, I failed to submit a note about the passing of Albert Krieger. He was indeed in the top 5 criminal defense attorneys who has appeared before me in 34 years as a judge. (Do not ask who the other 4 are, so that every lawyer will believe he or she was in that group). While many lawyers, including good lawyers, value to their detriment an aggressive tone, Mr. Krieger relied on calm , methodical persuasion, wth a booming voice and a smile to boot. The Spanish word caballero is fitting: more than a gentleman, but like a knight. It is not surprising that the Indian tribe that contested jurisdiction at the Wounded Knee trial eventually rose for the judge and the lawyers. We should all aspire to his unreachable goal and be knights off and on the court. My condolences to his proud family and friends . G-d rest his soul. FAM

David Oscar Markus said...

From Marty Weinberg:

Memories of Albert:
First, his reverence for the role of the criminal defense lawyer. He embodied all it meant to stand between a client, his liberty and the Government. Within the legal and ethical boundaries that define the defense function, he was fearless, creative, forceful, eloquent, and enormously skilled. He was the lawyer you most wanted as co-counsel or as counsel for a co-defendant. His judgment was impeccable and his mastery of the art of cross examination virtually unparalleled.
To Albert, the credibility of the defense lawyer in the eyes of both the judge and jury was paramount. He was enormously disciplined about make certain that his arguments and his representations were both truthful and convincing. He taught me that the assertions contained in the questions selected by the defense lawyer to be asked on cross-examination were as important as the answers and that if a witness denied or failed to adopt the truth of the assertion it was pivotal to the cross-examiner to contradict any such denial because at the end it was the credibility of the cross-examiner, his trustworthiness, that would be pivotal when it was time to ask a jury to believe in his arguments for freedom.
His memory was capacious: where I would go to the podium with folders and notes and documents for impeachment, Albert would follow with a post-it. And his voice for those who knew him was a treasure.
With Albert’s loss, the defense bar has lost a champion. Liberty is more fragile today. He was the historic bridge between the great trial lawyers of the 50s and 60s and my generation – the lawyers that chose criminal law during the historic and cultural revolution of the late 1960s/early 1970s. I internalized many lessons while sharing the defense with Albert of prominent Miami criminal defense lawyer Bill Moran who with five other attorneys was charged in the epic late 90s Cali Cartel case and while being a member of a joint defense with Albert, Roy Black, and Susan Van Dusen in the Falcon-Magluta case. Knowing Albert made me a better person. Working with Albert made me a far better lawyer.

David Markus said...

From Scott Srebnick:

I had the great privilege of working in Albert’s home office for seven years in the early part of my career from 1994-2001. I had a front row seat, and then an increasing role, assisting him in his post-Gotti cases during the 1990s (Falcon/Magluta, Moran/Abbell, Port of Miami corruption case, Miami-Dade Commission bribery case, etc.). Whereas law school taught me how to “think like a lawyer,” Albert Krieger taught me how to be one. There was no better teacher or lawyer. There was no kinder or more thoughtful mentor.
It is challenging to adequately capture all the qualities that made Albert without equal as a trial lawyer. Many of them have been described in previous comments, especially in Marty Weinberg’s. Albert, of course, had legendary skill cross-examining a witness. He had the larger-than-life courtroom presence. He had the much-touted booming voice and oratory skills. He had unimpeachable integrity and decency. He had passion for his calling. He was unflappable. He was fearless. He combined intimidating confidence with a genuine kindness and humility that was never contrived.
But Albert had two less-heralded qualities that, for me, stood out because of their rarity. First, his vocabulary was extraordinary (is that the right word to describe it?). I was mesmerized by the ease and precision with which he chose his words, both in the courtroom and even in casual conversation. I can’t recall a single time he chose the wrong word in a sentence or used a word out of context. Second, he was a phenomenal listener. Whether Albert was involved in a discussion with other lawyers about a complicated legal issue or examining a witness on the stand, his mind seemed to carefully process every spoken word. Albert’s focus on a witness’s actual words (on the rare occasion when the answer wasn’t simply “yes sir”) left him ready to pounce with the right follow-up question rather than a scripted one. Observing those two characteristics in Albert on a daily basis made me self-conscious about thinking a little longer before speaking or writing, not because I feared Albert’s wrath if my communications lacked clarity but because I aspired to measure up to his unattainable standard of excellence and win his stamp of approval.
Many in our society, even those who toil in the system, do not appreciate the role of the criminal defense lawyer or the uphill battle we face in every case. To many, we are simply hired guns or “high-powered,” a term whose meaning I’ve never quite understood. It is natural to doubt the value of a criminal defense lawyer’s contribution to society. When, on occasion, I feel self-doubt, I remind myself of Albert Krieger and the pride he openly displayed in announcing that he was a criminal defense lawyer. I remind myself of the clarity, precision, and humility with which he explained, and persuaded his audience, of the important constitutional role of the criminal defense lawyer as a check on an overzealous government. Perhaps that will be Albert Krieger’s most enduring legacy as a criminal defense lawyer.

David Markus said...

From Ed Shohat:

When Albert, Ted Wells and I defended the “Commission Bribery Case” in front of Ed Davis, one of the finest gentlemen federal judges ever, the government saved its “best” for last, Howard Gary. Gary was a con man’s con man and he had conned the government into relying on him to convince a jury, tired after a boring 6 week slog of a trial, that Albert and Ted’s client had bribed Jose and my clients to secure their “minority participation” on major bond issues for construction projects here in Miami-Dade County.

Albert took the lead cross which he opened by walking up to Gary in the witness box and inquiring of Gary “Are you or are you not a criminal?” Gary, royally pissed off at Albert, spent the next 2 days refusing to answer even the simplest question by Albert, then Jose. The jury hated him which, after all, was the method to Albert’s madness of an opening question.

The spectacle Albert orchestrated for the jury made everyone so angry at Gary that when I rose to do my cross, Judge Davis called me to the bench and whispered “Ed, we all know you have no defense in this case. So I want you to do me a favor. Before you ask Mr. Gary any questions please go right up to him and punch him in the nose as hard as you can. I guarantee you no more than 1 hr at FDC.”

Albert and Ted’s client and Jose’s client were acquitted.

RockyRodriguez said...

I have no war stories to share about Albert Krieger. Nor can I claim to have known him well. But he left an indelible mark on me. We met through the ABA Annual Meetings. I think we were both part of the Florida delegation in the ABA House of Delegates at the time, and often were on the same flight back to Miami from the meeting venue (but usually on opposing sides of resolutions!). We would converse before boarding or at baggage claim. I remember his gentlemanly demeanor. His stentorian voice. His genuine curiosity and interest in the views of others. And his humility. I regret not having seen him in court. What an education that would have been! RIP Al Krieger.

Rumpole said...

His defense in Wounded Knee is one of the primary reasons I was not just interested in becoming a lawyer, but in becoming a criminal defense attorney. In the 1970's it was Lee Bailey and maybe Edward Bennett Williams and then everyone else. But with Wounded Knee Albert entered the sphere, even as a young man then, above the "everyone else" line. He was a New Yorker but, as Scott has mentioned, with a way of speaking and choosing his words that was unlike anyone else I ever saw in a courtroom. Judge Moreno had it right. Albert knew that just being aggressive was not always (and is sometimes rarely) the best way to proceed. And his choice of "Caballero" -Gentleman with that Spanish connotation of perhaps being a distinguished gentleman- hits the nail on the head. He had the heart of a Lion. He could pounce like a Tiger, but he was often at his best as an innocent and charming, yet cunning, kitty cat. All knowing. No fear. Warm and generous with his time and experience.