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Bruce Cutler

U.S. criminal lawyer. Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., to a detective turned lawyer, Cutler graduated from Hamilton College and Brooklyn Law School, with honors, in 1974. He was supervising senior trial attorney with the Homicide Bureau of the Brooklyn District Attorney from 1974 to 1981, when he joined the private practice of Barry Slotnick, one of New York's premier criminal lawyers. In March 1985, he became the defense lawyer for John Gotti, who headed a notorious crime family by virtue of a murderous coup and flaunted his power during a flamboyant reign as a Mafia boss. Cutler provided a tenacious and highly publicized defense of Gotti against a government determined to bring Gotti to his knees. A ubiquitous presence at Gotti's side in and out of the courtroom, Cutler became almost as infamous as his client. And, as Gotti became a lightning rod for prosecutors seeking glory, reputation, or promotion, Cutler became a lightning rod for controversy. The government said Cutler may have gotten too close, and they set out to see that Cutler and Gotti paid the price. Cutler successfully defended Gotti in an assault case, a federal racketeering trial, and in a case in which he was accused of shooting a union official. But in a federal murder and racketeering trial in 1991 and 1992, with Cutler and an associate defending Gotti, the winning streak ran out. Prosecutors contended that both lawyers were house counsel for a crime family and thus became potential witnesses in the case against Gotti. They were removed at the government's behest. Cutler, the appeals court said, had "entangled himself to an extraordinary degree in the activities of the Gambino crime family." Gotti was later convicted and sentenced to life without parole. He died in 2002. A judge had warned Cutler not to talk to the media during the proceedings but Cutler did. In 1993 he was convicted of contempt for violating the court order. He was sentenced to 90 days of house arrest, ordered to perform 600 hours of community service, and fined $5,000. He was also suspended from practicing law for six months in 1995 and 1996. Eventually, Cutler returned to private practice. He wrote Closing Argument (2003) about his law career.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.