Gus Newman, a respected New York City criminal defense lawyer who completed at least 200 felony trials during his five decades of practice, died Monday.
He was 90 and suffered from a brief illness, said his son, Eric Newman, a civil litigator and partner at Bowles Liberman & Newman in Manhattan.
Known as a skilled cross-examiner who used humor and an old-school presence with juries, Newman was most known for successfully defending white-collar cases. His prominent trial victories included the defenses of U.S. Congressman Rev. Floyd Flake in 1991; Washington, D.C., lawyer Robert Altman in 1993; New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind in 1998; and Manhattan Surrogate Court Judge Nora Anderson in 2010.
“Gus was truly an extremely highly respected criminal trial lawyer who was considered by many to be one of the best, if not the best, in the field for many years,” Herrick Feinstein partner Scott Mollen said in an email Thursday.
Criminal defense attorney Benjamin Brafman, who tried six cases alongside Newman as co-counsel, called him “a consummate professional, also very charming, eloquent, endearing.”
“The key to his success was extraordinary preparation and obviously talent,” said Brafman, of Brafman & Associates in Manhattan. “But also I believe jurors respected him. He was able to cloak his clients with his own air of respectability.”
When Newman secured an acquittal of Altman for allegedly attempting to defraud regulators about the surreptitious acquisition of First American Bankshares Inc. by the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), The New York Times said in a 1993 article that the verdict amounted to “a blow to the New York district attorney, Robert M. Morgenthau.”
Eric Newman recalled Thursday that after the prosecution put on its case for months, his father entered just a couple of documents in defense and put on a couple of witnesses briefly. He relied instead on his extensive cross-examination in the weeks before, including efforts to impeach former BCCI executives and officers.
“He had a tremendous but sympathetic courtroom presence,” Eric Newman said of his father. “I think he had a good intuitive understanding, when it comes to cross-examinations, a very good intuitive understanding of people.”
Brafman noted that Gus Newman’s “talent as a cross-examiner was defined by his ability to switch gears and be tenacious when it served his purpose, but also be very, very charming when it served his purpose.”
Gustave Harold Newman was born in Brooklyn in 1927, the son of Russian and Lithuanian Jewish immigrants. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II in the Philippines and Japan. He later attended New York University on the GI Bill, graduating with a B.A. in 1950 and receiving an LL.B. in 1952.
Initially working in civil practice in Brooklyn, he later formed Evseroff, Newman & Sonenshine, specializing in criminal trial work. He formed his own firm in Manhattan in 1976, and it ran as a boutique for decades.
He retired from Newman & Greenberg in 2012. The Manhattan white-collar criminal defense firm still bears his name.
Newman was the force in creating the New York Council of Defense Lawyers in 1986 and served as its first president, his son said. He was honored with the council’s Norman Ostrow Award in 1991.