FBI prospect 'revered' as prosecutor

July 20, 1993|By Newsday

NEW YORK -- FBI agents who worked on the mammoth Mafia drug conspiracy sometimes grumbled privately about Louis Freeh when he was prosecuting the Pizza Connection heroin case.

If a warrant was not drawn up precisely in accordance with the law, Judge Freeh would send them back to get it right, said a defense lawyer who sat across the aisle from the assistant U.S. attorney during the 17-month trial.

"Sometimes agents would complain he's not loyal to them, but his loyalty is to the oath of office," said a veteran defense lawyer, David Lewis. "His commitment is to the law and not law enforcement."

That should ease the minds of liberals worried about past FBI excesses as well as conservatives ea ger for the nation's premier law enforcement agency to hammer crime, according to judges and lawyers who have worked with -- and against -- Judge Freeh, a 43-year-old father of four.

Now on the bench in the same Manhattan federal courthouse where he argued cases, Judge Freeh is expected to be tapped today to head the FBI.

The job would be a kind of homecoming for the New Jersey native, who once worked as an undercover agent for the bureau he may now oversee.

Yet it is one for which Judge Freeh seems to have spent his whole life preparing.

He is simply the best investigative prosecutor that Aaron Marcu can remember. Mr. Marcu, the No. 3 staffer when Judge Freeh was No. 2 in the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan in the late 1980s, said everyone -- even agents who might have been sent back to do more homework -- revered him.

Winning court approval for wiretaps of a bank of pay phones, flying off with a judge in tow to get depositions from drug dealers jailed abroad, or overseeing the extradition of the Sicilian Mafia boss from Spain were all "unprecedented," said Mr. Marcu.

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