Bruce Cutler

Who

One of New York's most flamboyant criminal defense attorneys, Cutler's the man to talk to if you're a mafia crime boss facing a trial.

Backstory

Defending the mob is a Cutler family tradition: Bruce's father, Murray Cutler, was a noted criminal defense attorney in Brooklyn. Raised in Flatbush, Bruce attended Poly Prep and Hamilton (where he wrestled and played football) before moving on to Brooklyn Law and starting out as a Brooklyn assistant district attorney. In 1981, Cutler switched sides and went to work for noted criminal defense attorney Barry Slotnick.

He went out on his own five years later and soon became a household name thanks to his role as John Gotti's defense attorney during the late 1980s and '90s. In all, Cutler won three acquittals for the Mafia don—it was largely thanks to Cutler that Gotti earned the moniker the "Teflon Don"—but when Gotti was brought up on murder charges in 1992, prosecutors managed to have Cutler thrown off the case. Unfortunately for Gotti, it was the one big case he ended up losing—and he earned a life sentence. Cutler has kept a lower profile since the glory days of the Mob, but he remains one of the top defense attorneys in the city.

Of note

Cutler returned to the front pages of the tabloids in 2005 when he teamed up with Ed Hayes to defend NYC's "Mafia Cops," Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa. The trial was a loser for the veteran attorneys: Both men were ultimately convicted of racketeering although the presiding judge, Jack Weinstein, dismissed the charges since the statue of limitations had run out. (The cops later sued Hayes and Cutler, claiming they'd provided incompetent counsel.)

Cutler resurfaced a few months later when he joined music producer Phil Spector's defense team. But Cutler appeared to have trouble finding his bearings in the LA courtroom. Following a disastrous opening statement and a scolding from the judge, Cutler was sidelined by Spector before abandoning the case altogether a few months later. He's since debuted a shlocky syndicated TV show, Jury Duty, in which he plays a judge.

In person

The bald-domed attorney is about as intimidating as they come: He's invariably described in the press as a linebacker or tugboat, and his raspy voice led Eddie Hayes to once quip that Cutler "gargles Brillo pads for breakfast." Cutler's courtroom style is equally fearsome. His cross-examinations were so aggressive back in the day that they were dubbed "Brucifixions." Like fellow defense attorneys Murray Richman and Ben Brafman, Cutler has also made a name for himself thanks to his dramatic flair. In one particularly entertaining display at a 1987 Gotti trial, Cutler called the indictment "a rancid stew" made with "bad meat and bad potatoes" which " belongs in the garbage" and then promptly dumped the offending documents in a trash can before a rapt jury. The moment was written into a script for Miami Vice.

In print

Cutler co-authored a 2003 autobiography, Closing Argument: Defending (and Befriending) John Gotti, and Other Legal Battles I Have Waged.

Soundbite

Cutler and Ed Hayes have been close pals since they met in 1981 and Cutler is the godfather of Hayes's daughter, Avery. "If there's anything I love in the world, it's a tough Brooklyn Jew, and Bruce is a tough Brooklyn Jew," Hayes once said. "He's the Irish brother I never had," Cutler replied in kind.

Personal

Cutler's been married and divorced twice. (He met his first wife, Gladys, during his high school years. His second wife was named Barbara.) He has one son, Michael Cutler, who was born in 1997. Currently single, he lives on the Upper West Side.