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Blaming the Victim: The Outrageous Bill Flack

October 20, 2008

Criminal attorney Bill Flack made some outrageous claims last week in defending his 51-year-old junkie client Steven Armento, who is charged with fatally shooting police officer Daniel Enchautegui during a burglary in 2005.

And some outrageous claims were made about Flack.

In what is now called the Bronx County Hall of Justice, the glass spectacle that has replaced the venerable old Supreme Court building on the Grand Concourse, Flack declared in his opening statement that Enchautegui caused his own death by stumbling upon the burglary while off-duty.

“What you’re going to discover is that the officer with good intentions, his reactions caused his death,” Flack said.

“What you’re going to learn from the evidence in this case is that the deceased had one bullet in the heart. My client was shot at least six times. Lillo Brancato [the “Sopranos” actor who was with Armento] was also shot,” Flack continued. “They weren’t even standing next to each other. You’re going to have to determine who started firing their weapon, who fired first.”

Flack added that a member of the Police Department scheduled to testify would “lie to you.”

Flack’s words outraged police officers at the trial as well as PBA President Patrick Lynch, and prompted an editorial in Daily News, calling Flack “despicable” for “trying to blame heroic NYPD Officer Daniel Enchautegui for his own murder.”

Flack, said the News, “crossed the boundary of presenting a zealous and responsible defense. …

“Outrageously, Flack pins responsibility for the shooting on Enchautegui by claiming that Armento didn't know he was a cop.

“In Flack's twisted world, Armento and Brancato were defending themselves against an unknown threat, who happened to be Enchautegui.”

Believe it or not, Flack spent 25 years on the side of The Law as a prosecutor in the same Bronx District Attorney’s office that is trying to put away Armento and Brancato.

Back in the day, he also served a stretch as an attorney for the police department in the Department Advocate’s office.

Under former Bronx District Attorneys Mario Merola and Paul Gentile, Flack was the office’s chief trial attorney — a veritable pit bull.

And he was just as infuriating then as he is now — berating witnesses and defense attorneys and generally acting like a wild man.

He also had a knack for losing his biggest cases, in part because his manner offended so many people — Bronx jurors in particular.

Most notable of his failures was that of Abdul Hakeem, a/k/a Larry Davis, the 20-year-old drug dealer and stone killer, who in 1986 shot six cops in his sister’s apartment.

That led to a 17-day, citywide manhunt, ending with the police closing off street after street, building after building, trapping Davis like a rat.

By eluding the police for so long, Davis became an urban folk hero. As cops led him out of his last hideout, residents leaned out their windows, cheering, “Lar-ry, Lar-ry.”

It was Flack’s misfortune to prosecute, and ultimately lose, the case against Davis in the shooting of those six officers.

At trial, Flack maintained the police had raided Davis’ sister’s apartment to question Davis about the killing of four drug dealers, one of whom was fatally shot while taking a bath.

Davis was also tried and acquitted of those four killings.

In that trial, Davis’ attorneys, William M. Kunstler and Lynne F. Stewart [yes, the same Lynne Stewart who pleaded guilty to aiding terrorists by smuggling messages of violence from a jailed radical Egyptian cleric] argued that the police had framed Davis, but offered no evidence to support this.

Guess who the prosecutor was? That’s right. Bill Flack.

Then came the cop-shooting trial. In that one, Kunstler and Stewart claimed that the police had staged the raid on Davis’ sister’s apartment to murder him because of his involvement with corrupt cops. Again, they again offered no proof.

Flack shouted and flapped his arms like a bird unable to fly while a jury acquitted Davis of the most serious charge of attempted murder, finding him guilty only of weapons possession.

Not until 1991, under current District Attorney Robert Johnson, was Davis convicted of murdering yet another drug dealer and sentenced to 30 years to life in prison.

Your Humble Servant has reason to remember that trial because, right after the verdict, Davis’ attorney Michael Warren shouted in the courtroom, “Are you satisfied now, Lenny, you low-life, you dog, you scoundrel!”

He was apparently referring to my Newsday article about Davis and a female IRS agent, suspected of slipping him the home addresses of judges, detectives and prosecutors during a prison visit.

As for Flack, when this reporter visited the Armento trial two days after his opening, the Outrageous One seemed restrained.

He no longer looked like a wild man. He’d grown a thin beard and a mustache. His suit jacket was neatly buttoned. And he never raised his voice.

Painful as it may be, maybe the News should cut the former prosecutor some slack for vigorously defending his client.

Mayor Mike’s Payoff. We’ve said it before and will say it again. No politician is irreplaceable. Even the mayor of New York City. Especially the mayor of New York City.

When, after 9/11, Rudy Giuliani offered himself as the only person able to lead the city and asked New Yorkers for an extra three months in office, former Mayor Ed Koch said that Giuliani he cared about the city so much he should stay on — as an assistant to the new mayor.

Now with Michael Bloomberg literally paying off city council members to allow him to run for a third term, we’ll make Koch’s argument [while acknowledging that Koch supports Bloomberg’s third term.]

If Bloomberg cares so much about the city, let him stay on as an assistant to the new mayor.

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Copyright © 2008 Leonard Levitt