Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

March 7, 2006

Kuby and Sliwa

Filed under: Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 5:59 pm

Curtis Sliwa and Ron Kuby: conservative and liberal publicity hounds

Curtis Sliwa and Ron Kuby

Today’s (3/7/06) NY Times has an interesting account of an ongoing trial in NYC:

Throughout his racketeering conspiracy trial, John A. Gotti has maintained that the charges are all a mistake, that he gave up the life of a Gambino crime family leader long ago. Yesterday, a parade of witnesses – a lawyer, his cousin and his younger brother – took the stand to swear that Mr. Gotti was not the person prosecutors say he was.

The lawyer, Ronald L. Kuby, who is host of a radio show with Curtis Sliwa, a man Mr. Gotti is accused of plotting to kidnap, recounted a version of the proverbial jailhouse repentance story.

Mr. Kuby said that about eight years ago, after being indicted in a different racketeering case, Mr. Gotti confided that he regretted his life of crime and wanted to seek the straight and narrow.

Despite his past connections to the Gotti family as a lawyer, Kuby is a well-known radical (of sorts) who was positioned to become the next Bill Kunstler, with whom he enjoyed a kind of partnership. However, after Kunstler died, his widow Marjorie Ratner (sister of Michael Ratner of the CCR) sued to prevent Kuby from using the name Kunstler-Kuby in his law practice and to turn over any resources from his former association with Kunstler.

The NY Times reported on 12/15/1996:

Mr. Kuby, whose parents divorced when he was 5 and who spent a rambling adolescence in Israel, Maine, the Virgin Islands and Kansas, found in Mr. Kunstler a spiritual and professional parking place. A Cornell law graduate, he joined the firm in 1984 as an associate, toiling for years at Mr. Kunstler’s side in hundreds of court appearances and before countless reporters’ microphones.

They represented El Sayyid A. Nosair against charges of assassinating Rabbi Meir Kahane, and Darrell Cabey, one of the youths shot by Bernhard Goetz. Glenn Harris, the New York City teacher who ran off with a student, was a client. So was Colin Ferguson, eventually convicted of murder for his rampage on the Long Island Rail Road.

Ms. Ratner and Mr. Kuby viewed each other with a chilly distance. She saw him as a noisy interloper who urged her husband to take some tawdry cases. “Ron would go to every press conference,” she said, “when he was supposed to be doing back-up work at the office to enable Bill to do his work.”

The notion of Ron Kuby going to every press conference might give some indication why he would team up with Curtis Sliwa on AM talk radio, in a typical “left” versus “right” format found on TV cable shows with Colmes and Hannity, etc. Both are inveterate publicity hounds. Unlike the typical liberal, Kuby at least has the merit of being able to summon up a kind of lawyerly pugnacity, even though it is on behalf of a rather tepid liberalism. Kuby donated $2000 to the Kerry campaign in 2004 and spent countless hours on his radio show bashing Nader. At one point in his career, Kuby became radical Islamicists’ favored defense lawyer, including the men who were implicated in the first WTC attack in 1992. He was teamed up with attorney Lynne Stewart who was victimized by the government for supposedly conveying messages from the blind Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman accused of masterminded the bombing.

In a 9/22/2002 NY Times magazine article, Kuby explained how he was putting this part of his past behind him:

Even Ron Kuby, a strong defender of Stewart, has rethought many things since Sept. 11. He now regrets having defended El Sayyid A. Nosair, accused of killing the Jewish extremist Meir Kahane. When Sattar, the sheik’s paralegal, was arrested along with Stewart, Kuby was ready to represent him at the bail hearing, until Kuby’s wife said, “You don’t know what he was doing.” Kuby reached a decision: “I sure as hell don’t think people who would take my family, put them in purdah and put me up against a wall and shoot me are entitled to my support in that struggle.”

Lawyers are cowards, Kuby told me — he far more than Lynne Stewart. They live vicariously through their clients. “Movement” lawyers, especially, identify with the people they represent. When the lawyer is as loving and committed as Stewart, he said, and the client as charismatic as Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, the identification becomes passionate. “In the best of cases we identify with their determination, with their courage, and we see the people that maybe we could have been had we the courage to do what they did. And as a result, if you’re a good lawyer, you spend a lot of time doing gut checks. And because it’s a profession that is so cowardly, enjoying the aura of being those people without ever taking the risks of being those people, it’s easy to say: this is the right thing to do, I’m not hurting anyone, this is morally justified. I’m refusing to do it out of fear because I’m a coward, and I’ve got to change that. I can’t succumb to that kind of fear, because if I’m afraid of the government here, I can’t do this job.”

Kuby escorted me from his office out onto lower Broadway. He lighted a cigarette and grew melancholy. He asked what I thought of Stewart’s case. I said that the men of the legal left had been more savvy, and now she was all alone to pay the price. “Lynne is dying for our sins?” Kuby considered it. “Maybe. History is very unforgiving of people who pick the wrong side at the wrong time in the wrong place. And even if she wins, Lynne is ruined as a lawyer.”

Just to make sure that he wouldn’t compromise himself by being associated with such savages in the future, Kuby began to develop a new clientele–mostly it appears in the Mafia. One of his higher profile cases was defending Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, John Gotti Sr.’s chief lieutenant who became a snitch for the government. At some point, according to the 6/22/2000 NY Daily News, Kuby got on Gravano’s wrong side:

Jailed mob snitch Salvatore (Sammy Bull) Gravano wanted to add another victim to his tally of mob hits: Ron Kuby, the radio gabber-lawyer who represented the loved ones of the flipped gangster’s earlier targets, court papers charge.

The papers, filed in Arizona – where Gravano is being held on drug charges – allege the hit man hatched an intricate plot to lure the pony-tailed Kuby out of his Greenwich Village haunts to the airy plains of Texas, where he would be unceremoniously gunned down.

Kuby, whose freewheeling morning talkfest with Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa airs on WABC (770 AM), would be enticed to the Lone Star State with a bogus tale of a defendant who needed help fighting drug charges, according to the papers.

But once the crusading attorney arrived, the only case he’d get would be a bad case of lead poisoning.

Gravano planned to whack him – with his own trigger finger or with the help of drug dealers he does business with in the state, the papers contend.

The tale comes from Phillip Pascucci, who offered the story to authorities after he was arrested June 12 in Phoenix on drug charges, according to the papers.

News of the alleged kill plot caused the usually voluble Kuby to take pause. “As stupid as it was, it was a plan,” he said yesterday. “When Sammy Gravano threatens to kill you, you have to take it seriously.”

Kuby, the protégé of the famed late civil rights lawyer William Kunstler, attracted Gravano’s allegedly murderous ire by representing 12 survivors of the 19 people Gravano killed as a hit man for the Gambino crime family.

Curtis Sliwa is the star witness in the trial of John Gotti Jr. On August 23, 2005, the NY Times reported:

Thirteen years after Curtis Sliwa, the founder of the Guardian Angels, was shot at point-blank range in the back of a New York taxicab, he finally got the chance yesterday to recount the tale from the witness stand of a federal courtroom, describing a desperate escape out the moving cab’s window.

Testifying in the federal racketeering trial of John A. Gotti, Mr. Sliwa said he thought he had “hit the lottery” when he climbed into the back of the cab he had hailed near his apartment in the East Village before dawn on June 19, 1992. The driver recognized him and seemed to know that he was going to the WABC radio studios near Madison Square Garden, where he was host of a morning show. Within moments, Mr. Sliwa said, a second man popped up from under the dashboard “like a jack-in-the-box,” pointing a silver-plated pistol at his belly.

“Take this, you son of a bitch,” Mr. Sliwa recalled the gunman saying. He said he heard at least three shots, and felt blood spurting under his shirt and then searing pain in his legs, “like a knife through hot butter.” Realizing that both rear windows were closed and that the inside door handles were missing, Mr. Sliwa said, he was alerted by a faint breeze on his face that the window next to the front passenger seat was open.

Using the back seat “like a trampoline,” he said, he propelled himself over the shoulder of the startled gunman and halfway out the window. He recalled that his head was hanging so close to the front tire that he could feel pebbles from the pavement hitting his face, and realized that his choice was either to be shot again or “take my chance of becoming a human speed bump.”

Although it is doubtful that Sliwa engineered his own shooting to garner publicity, the trial has called attention to his penchant for saying and doing almost anything to get him in the limelight. Sliwa first gained notoriety by starting something called the Guardian Angels back in 1979. This was basically a police auxiliary in red berets that patrolled crime-ridden neighborhoods and carrying out citizen’s arrests on petty thieves, etc. Like a racist version of Al Sharpton, Sliwa leaped upon every opportunity to get his name in the news whenever there was some high-profile racial incident. When Sharpton led a campaign to prosecute subway shooter Bernie Goetz, Sliwa spoke on his behalf. (Goetz had preemptively gunned down 3 black youth in a subway car because he felt that they were about to rob him.)

Around the time that Sliwa was gaining notoriety in the media, the American SWP began warning its readers that the Guardian Angels represented an incipient fascist threat. This group had announced around this time that the American working class was more radical than at any time in the 20th century so it was natural for them to find indications of last ditch efforts of the bourgeoisie to forestall proletarian revolution. Needless to say, this was the product of an overheated political imagination rather than historical materialism. In all the years that Sliwa and his followers have been around, they have never attacked a single trade union or socialist meeting. By the same token, Pat Buchanan–who was also dubbed an incipient fascist in 1996 by the SWP–has been conducting himself in an utterly conventional fashion.

1 Comment »

  1. A good read.

    The SWP knows precisely what fascism is, and what it isn’t. They are the ones who always tell others, the definition.

    Curtis also had a publicity seeking wife at one time.

    You’re not talking about Jewish gangsters this time.


    Comment by Renegade Eye — March 8, 2006 @ 5:48 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.