Are you a rap mogul facing weapons charges? Talk to Ben. He's made a career out of working miracles for high-profile clients with big troubles and even bigger bank balances.
Raised in an Orthodox Jewish family in Crown Heights, Brafman attended a yeshiva, Brooklyn College, and then law school at Ohio Northern University Law School on a scholarship. After graduating, he spent two years as a Manhattan assistant district attorney (winning 21 of the 22 cases he tried), before borrowing $15,000 from his wife's grandfather to open his own practice, Brafman Associates, in 1980. Starting small, he built a local reputation for defending mobsters like Sammy "the Bull" Gravano, the notorious Mob hitman (who dropped Brafman as his attorney after he turned State's evidence). By the '90s, Brafman had become one of New York's most popular defense attorneys, but his most public case came in 1999 when he teamed up with Johnnie Cochran to guide Diddy (or, as he was known to the State of New York, Sean J. Combs) through a set of illegal weapons and bribery charges stemming from a now-infamous brawl outside ClubUSA. Brafman earned an acquittal for the rapper but Diddy's pal, Shyne—who was repped by Murray Richman—ended up with a 10-year prison sentence.
Although Brafman may be best known for his work on Diddy's case, he's had his hand in some big trials both before and since. In 1997, he represented Daphne Abdela, the wealthy teen convicted of disemboweling a real estate broker in Central Park (she was sentenced to seven years in prison); he also defended club kingpin Peter Gatien, who was accused of running a drug operation out of his clubs the Tunnel and the Limelight. Post-Diddy, Brafman joined the defense team in Michael Jackson's circus-like 2004 trial for child molestation. (He was booted after a few months along with Mark Geragos.) In recent years, he's defended real estate developer Charles Kushner, Jay-Z, Jacob Arabo (aka Jacob the Jeweler), and Troi Torain (or DJ Star), who threatened to pee on and molest a rival DJ's four-year-old daughter. Most recently, he was retained by Plaxico Burress after the football player accidentally shot himself in the leg with an unlicensed gun.
Although he's known to work magic in the courtroom—the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin has described him as "the best lawyer I've ever seen"—he won't be getting Hanukkah cards from his fellow attorneys any time soon. Brafman is often criticized by his peers for his underhanded courtroom tactics and his use of the press to advance his agenda.
The barrel-chested lawyer is just 5'6". (A favorite courtroom line: "The prosecutor wants you to believe this story. I want to be six inches taller. But neither one of us is going to get our wish.") Brafman's Borcht Belt one-liners generally go over well in court—and are appropriate considering one of Brafman's early gigs was as a stand-up comedian in the Catskills. He's also known, like any slick defense attorney, for the attention he pays to his wardrobe. But he also has plenty of casual wear sitting in his closet, too—his work on Diddy's behalf reportedly earned him a lifetime supply of Sean John.
Brafman and his wife, Lynda, live in the Orthodox enclave of Cedarhurst. They have a daughter named Jennifer, and a son, David, an Orthodox rabbi who lives in Israel. (His brother is Rabbi Aaron Brafman, who runs the Yeshiva of Far Rockaway.) Brafman says he's still observant and doesn't work on Jewish holidays or Saturdays.