By David Friedland
In 1965, a young man (Tommy D) asked for my help as a lawyer. He was a teamster driver and had just been arrested (the second time) for robbing a Federal Bank of $2500. In the first robbery, he parked his car in the delivery area of the Bank, went in without a mask armed with a toy gun, collected some money, and was arrested by a cop who was writing a ticket on his car and nabbed him on the spot. Tommy was appointed a public defender and entered a plea of guilty. He had 7 children and his wife died giving birth to his young daughter. He lost his job, was desperate and robbed the bank. He was released on bail. Several weeks later another Bank was robbed, two blocks from the first, and the teller positively identified Tommy as the culprit.
I told him I would defend him for $500, and since he had no money, I told him he could pay me when he had the money.
I tried his case before a jury in the US District Courthouse in Trenton, the same courthouse that I was sentenced in. The Jury found him innocent after deliberating for about an hour. The Judge called me into his chambers. He said “I have never seen a performance like yours in my thirty years on the bench. You do know that your client was guilty , do you not.” I said: “Judge, I thought he was innocent until the very moment the jury found him innocent, and then I knew that he was guilty”. The Judge smiled and told me “Get the f—ck out of my office.”
I did not hear from Tommy after that for many years. He never paid me, nor did I ask him for the money.
In 1986, after they captured me , they held me at the MCC NY in maximum security (after all I was a dangerous desperado). My lawyer called me one day and asked me if I knew a Tommy D. I said no. I had completely forgotten who he was. My lawyer said “You tried a bank robbery case for him years ago.”
I remembered and said “Yes. I remember Tommy now, how is he?”
My lawyer Brian Shaughnessy said “ He just sent me $10,000 for your criminal defense”