Devils’ Advocate

From our March 2005 issue: To people accused of doing bad things—embezzling millions, bribing judges, putting a bullet in someone’s head—Ed Genson may be the go-to lawyer in town. For years the Mob had him on speed dial. And pols in trouble (including Larry Warner, Governor Ryan’s friend and codefendant) regularly sign up with him. He’s cunning, funny, sometimes outrageous—a master of the cross examination. But what matters most to his clients: He’ll do (almost) anything to win.

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The worn wooden doors of a Cook County courtroom swing open and the legendary criminal defense attorney Eddie Genson rolls in. He’s hardly an intimidating sight; not an ounce of slickness emanates from his bearish, roly-poly, 63-year-old body. He’s riding an excruciatingly slow electric scooter, a concession he made about five years ago to a neurological disorder that makes it painful to walk.

Once in the courtroom, he still uses his signature cane to get around, and instead of standing before a jury, he’ll sit on a high wooden chair, his feet dangling above the floor. Genson’s body may hurt, but his mind is still quick and his reputation formidable, despite a long career spent defending notorious mobsters, sleazy politicians, and other generally unsavory figures. “The overwhelming majority of guys he represents are really guilty,” says Andrea Zopp, a former Cook County prosecutor who now works as general counsel for Sears. “And every one of those clients has gotten a very aggressive defense. He can work miracles.”

Genson rides down the aisle of the courtroom, his head bobbing slightly from his malady, affably chatting up a few folks as he makes his way to the defense table. His “Good morning"s tend to include the question “How are you feeling today?” as if everyone lived in the chronic pain he suffers from. This morning, Genson is feeling pretty good. In ten minutes, his client arrives. It’s the R&B superstar R. Kelly, a man of immense means who’s in deep trouble-the kind of person who will call Genson looking for one of those miracles. Kelly is facing 14 counts of possession of child pornography, in connection with a graphic sex video, widely circulated, in which he allegedly appears.

Today’s court date is a pretrial status hearing dominated by the question of whether prosecutors will be allowed to put a pediatrician on the stand to estimate the age of the girl in the video (authorities maintain she is a minor). Sitting at the defense table, Genson and Kelly look like the costars of a bad buddy movie. Kelly, in a perfectly tailored dark suit and slicked-back cornrows, is all scowls and knitted brow. Genson, with his scraggly beard and shaggy curls falling from the back of a balding head, is calm, even content. Until it’s time to speak. Then Genson unwinds his argument with increasing volume, demanding that the pediatrician be barred because her judgment will be “subjective.” He uses the word “ridiculous” twice in his attack on the prosecutors’ stance, suggesting that jurors can make their own, commonsense estimate of the girl’s age. Knowing that prosecutors believe they know the girl’s identity and birthdate anyway, he observes sourly, “I don’t know that it takes special qualifications to read a birth certificate.” In the end, the judge schedules the matter for a fuller hearing at a later date-Genson has essentially fought to a draw.

So the hobbled lawyer heads back to his office in the Monadnock Building, the lawyers’ haven on West Jackson Boulevard, to contemplate his other pressing cases. For example, in one of the largest financial scandals in recent state history, a suburban real-estate developer, Jack Hargrove, is charged in connection with the alleged embezzlement of $80 million from the politically influential Intercounty Title Company of Illinois and related companies. Genson claims that Hargrove is actually a victim, not a perp. In another spotlight case, Scott Anixter, who was previously convicted in a soybean trading scam, is scheduled to stand trial in September in an alleged $80-million corporate fraud case at Anicom, his family’s industrial wire and cable company. On the noir side of the ledger, there’s the ongoing saga of Bruno Mancari. The Mancari name is well known in the Chicago area because of the ubiquitous television and radio commercials for the south suburban auto dealerships of Bruno’s brother, Frank. Genson is defending Bruno on a federal gun possession charge, but a conviction would be a mere consolation prize for prosecutors. Two years ago, Bruno was tried in connection with the killing of a boyhood friend who wound up in a car trunk before he could tell a grand jury what he knew about a chop shop operation in which he and Bruno were allegedly involved. Frank Mancari hired a Chicago Dream Team for his brother, led by Genson and including lawyers Sam Adam, R. Eugene Pincham, and Tom Breen. The prosecution’s case fell apart when one witness changed his story and another decided at the last minute to take the Fifth. Bruno was acquitted.

More immediately, Genson has to be in federal court for a hearing tomorrow morning on behalf of dealmaker Larry Warner, a pal of former governor George Ryan. Ryan and Warner are scheduled to go on trial together in one of the most explosive cases of alleged political corruption in Illinois history. At the hearing tomorrow, prosecutors will continue their efforts to get Genson thrown off the case because he used to represent the onetime Ryan aide and protégé Scott Fawell, who is now expected to testify against his former boss. And then tomorrow afternoon, Genson is due back in state court to pick a jury in the retrial of the so-called “angel killer” Margaret DeFrancisco, a 20-year-old Pilsen resident featured on America’s Most Wanted.

Genson is also handling about a dozen other cases. It isn’t easy being a legend.

 Photograph: Tom Maday



6 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

December 17, 2008

Our comment is addressed to the Republicans, especially, to Illnois Republican Representative, Michael Madigan; that is, we know the true and real reasons why you and other Republicans want governor Blagojevich removed/impeached from his governor position. We know that you Republicans want the opportunity to gain this governor seat and the senator seat for you Republicans' and for you Republicans' benefit. You Republicans' want to continue the massive and profusive spendings for the rich; and you Republicans want to continue your destruction against the abjected/abandoned poor, the degraded middle-classes who have been subjected to a starving level; and you Republicans want to continue the corruption and destruction you have waged against the poor American people, the middle-classes of American people and the ravishing poor/abjected people of the world. We know many things are not correct about Blagojevich; however, you cannot convict a man from talking.

Blagojevich was just only running off with his mouth; however, he has not committed a crime yet; he did not execute the act; and you Republicans know that you cannot convict a man for just talking.

You Republicans think that you are above the laws of this country and the world; and you Republicans think that you are above God's laws but we have news for you that you are not above the laws of this country, especially, not of God's laws. If you Republicans had better let the people of the United States of America decide whether Blagojevich should be removed from his governor's office/seat or not, not you Republicans. You Republicans cannot judge anyone because of the conditions and states you have put America in, the people of the United States of America, and the world. You Republicans are a disgrace to all humans (humankinds) in the world. If you Republicans impeach Blagojevich on the evidence you have you will be committing another crime in addition to all of your other crimes you have committed against the American people and the world since the establishment of your corrupt party. You Republican had better go and read you law books again; and you Republican had better enroll in some Law school for the Spring Semester of 2009. You Republican had better do what is right for a change because the American people are watching you; and the American people are tired of your criminal acts. The American people will overthrow you just like they voted you Republicans out of office in November 2008.

6 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

To the commentor below: Mike Madigan is a Democrat - not a Republican. The Governor's political affiliation has nothing to do with the charges pending against him. I am a Democrat but I am willing to admit this.

6 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

to anon 17dec08:

The fact that the man in question is a Dem, and has been in this position for some time now, and you are implicating exclusively the Rep Party for various wrong doings..absolutely removes your entire statement of any serious credibility. The fact that you do not recognize the problems at hand are shared among two parties, and in this case the man behind the wheel was a Dem, makes your statements blind and ignorant. And I don't mean those words to insult, it's just a shame because many people think the way you do.
And for the record, I am nor a Rep or a Dem.

The day enough Americans realize that govt should be limited and controlled is the day we will truly become free. The individual is more powerful than the state, when all the individuals accept their responsibility.

6 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

Addressed to the 2:14pm posting, as the 8:35pm posting author stated Michael Madigan is a Democrat. Madigan, as well as all of the Assistant Majority House Leaders (all Dems, of course) have not gotten along with the Gov. almost since his 1st term.

As to the second flawed pointed in the 2:14pm posting, (being that I will not comment on someone else's opinion) the Gov actually CAN be convicted of "talking" or "running his mouth." To be exact, if one party (individual) is "talking" with another party about the commission a criminal act (such as selling the U.S. Senate seat), they may both be convicted of Conspiracy. Conspiracy is, by definition, the discussion between two or more individuals regarding the commission of a criminal act. If that criminal act is actually carried out or reasonably attempted, then the individuals involved could (and in most cases, are) charged with conspiracy (to commit a criminal act) as well as the charge corresponding to the criminal act.

In summation, most individuals of both political parties and in the Senate and House are not big fans of the Gov. This being largely due to the Gov.'s overuse of his veto pen in instances such as buget approval. Furthermore, while the Gov. is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law (not in a court of public opinion), it is certainly plausable that he may certainly be charged with conspiracy for "talking" and even convicted of this offense. However, I personally know the Gov.'s attorneys (Ed Genson and Sam Adam, Jr.) and can say with utmost confidence that if the Gov. has even the slightest chance of receiving a "not guilty" verdict, it rests soley with these two attorneys.

- Democrat D

6 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

Is he one of the lawyers that Obama hired to get the birth certificate law suits thrown out ? If not he may be after a few more suits get filed. G-Rod will get off and a staff member will take the fall. Just like Obama, G-Rod is never directly involved , or he wasnt aware, or he didnt know, or he wasnt told etc etc etc... You people in Chicago keep electing these types so you seem to enjoy the DRAMA. Throw Jesse Jr into the mix and you got the 3 stooges from Chicago. Too funny- Illinois is the laughing stock of the nation.

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