NEW YORK – When the police commissioner's TV host son found himself facing a rape allegation, he turned to a lawyer with a reputation for handling high-profile cases with low-key know-how.
Andrew M. Lankler has represented people ranging from Bernard Madoff's auditor to the owner of a construction crane that collapsed and killed two people. But look Lankler up in news archives, and the words that often follow his name are "declined to comment" outside court.
Now Lankler is involved with the investigation that's been the talk of the city this week: a probe into whether Greg Kelly sexually assaulted a woman after they went out for drinks in October. And Lankler is choosing his words carefully, saying in the only statement he or anyone else has made on Kelly's behalf that the "Good Day New York" co-host and son of Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly strenuously denies any wrongdoing and that the investigation will clear him. No arrests have been made. The probe began after the woman went to police this Tuesday.
Lankler brings a straightforward, un-showy savvy to the legal questions and publicity storm surrounding Kelly, colleagues say.
He's a "lawyer with impeccable judgment in a case that calls for good judgment," said Paul Shechtman, who has worked with Lankler on cases including the forthcoming manslaughter trial of the crane owner and his company.
A founder of a firm that specializes in white-collar criminal defense, Lankler is a second-generation presence on the New York legal scene. His now-retired father, Roderick C. Lankler, was a special prosecutor investigating corruption in the city's criminal justice system in the 1970s and later worked under Robert Fiske, the original independent counsel for the Whitewater probe during the Clinton administration.
A graduate of George Washington University and its law school, the younger Lankler spent six years in the 1990s working in the Manhattan district attorney's office, which is conducting the Kelly probe. Police quickly saw a potential conflict in investigating a son of Commissioner Raymond Kelly.
Lankler "has a lot of credibility ... and knows how to make decisions that are in his client's best interest" in dealings with the DA's office, said Isabelle A. Kirshner, a fellow criminal defense lawyer who has worked with him on some cases.
Lankler also served as the inspector general of the Battery Park City Authority, which oversees a swath of lower Manhattan, among other posts before helping launch Lankler Carragher LLP in 2002. He and his wife have two teenage sons.
Lankler has tackled a number of criminal cases arising from the construction industry, including a racketeering case against a powerful carpenters' union leader, who ultimately pleaded guilty, and a nearly three-month-long trial of a concrete testing laboratory and some executives. They were charged with faking results for ground zero's signature skyscraper and other landmarks.
The case required defense lawyers to master extensive records and building-code complexities — and to contend with the balance, in any multi-defendant trial, between working together and advancing individual clients' interests, Shechtman recalled. He represented Testwell Laboratories Inc.'s president while Lankler represented a vice president.
"I knew that I could completely rely on Andy's word, that he was going to represent his client zealously but he wasn't going to do things behind my back," Shechtman said. Both their clients were convicted of racketeering and other charges and have appealed.
Lankler's other clients have included longtime Madoff auditor David Friehling, who made a cooperation deal with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to securities fraud, and former art gallery director Leigh Morse. She was convicted of selling works that belonged to four artists' estates without telling them, but she was acquitted of a more serious grand larceny charge that specifically involved the estate of Robert De Niro Sr., the actor's artist father.
The trial made headlines, especially when the Academy Award winner testified against Morse last March. But Lankler, with cordial no-comments, didn't try to seize the limelight.
"His primary goal is protecting the client, not seeking publicity for himself," says Susan Hoffinger, a defense lawyer who has known Lankler since both were prosecutors.
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