New York District Attorney Robert Morgenthau LAW ’48 returned to the Law School Wednesday afternoon to talk to students and faculty members about issues in law enforcement.
In his speech, Morgenthau told about 30 audience members about some of the major legal changes that took place during his nearly 30-year tenure as the District Attorney of New York County.
“There has been an 85 percent reduction in street violence crime over the last 10 years, and one of the main reasons is because we have worked closely with the police,” Morgenthau said.
While the number of street crimes has been diminishing in recent years, Morgenthau pointed out the increase in white-collar crimes and said his office has devoted significantly more resources to these investigations in recent years.
“I believe you’ve got to do both — people who are high up on the economic scale should be subject to the same prosecution as everyone else,” Morgenthau said. “The investigations [in white-collar crimes] are crucial to the public perception of our legal system and the integrity of our economic system.”
With a staff of more than 500, including attorneys and legal workers, Morgenthau told the audience that in recent years his fellow officers have been able to initiate their own investigations while working closely with the police department. These investigations have been specifically targeted at tax frauds, organized crimes, corruption, and white-collar crimes.
“More and more people are finding out that more and more people are not paying their taxes,” Morgenthau said. “And that is against the principle of equal justice.”
Morgenthau cited numerous cases when politicians were convicted in the past — from failure to file tax returns to scandals behind political fund raising.
Morgenthau also spoke about the security fraud cases in recent years and amused the audience when he cited two cases. One involved a money deposit of $750 billion, while the other involved the use of 150,000 fraudulent credit cards in the New York area.
But overall, Morgenthau was optimistic about the progress of crime reduction.
“I don’t know if we are winning, but we are definitely trying,” he said.
He spoke about drug-prevention programs as well as statutes developed to target drug gangs, young criminals and illegal trespassers in the Manhattan area.
Morgenthau’s speech was the last part of the Gordon Grand Lecture series hosted by Branford College.
Branford College Master Steven Smith introduced Morgenthau and praised his extraordinary legal career.
“[The Gordon Grand Fellowship] tries to bring people who have established leadership in their respective fields,” Smith said. “To have Mr. Morgenthau as our final speaker for the year simply ends the series on a high note. He has been a hero to many people.”
Audience member Adil Haque LAW ’05 said he enjoyed the speech.
“It was a very informative talk coming from a very accomplished individual,” Haque, who is from New York, said. “I was particularly proud to hear about the recent success of Mr. Morgenthau and his colleagues in financial cases.”
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