Joel Winograd, lawyer whose clients included Mafia members and Steve Madden, dies at 81

Joel Winograd, a deeply rooted Long Island defense attorney who has defended a wide range of clients – from shoe designer Steve Madden to members of New York mob families – died of pancreatic cancer in Florida on Sunday. He was 81 years old and had lived in Boynton Beach since his retirement in 2015.

“My father’s decades of legendary work as a defense attorney saved people everywhere, from gangsters to rabbis, from cops to CEOs,” said Corey Winograd, his son and legal partner for 20 years, on Tuesday. “Whether it was a federal indictment or just a personal issue, he was always there to give advice, advice and solutions to his clients, family and friends.”

The young Winograd described his father as a fixture in the legal scene for five decades, someone who was widely admired and appreciated by prosecutors, fellow defense lawyers and judges who came to know his work in the courts. federal and state.

“He started in the racket office working on organized crime and fraud cases and later became deputy head of narcotics, indicting 30 to 50 defendants per week,” the son said of his father’s early work. as a prosecutor.

Winograd was born in 1940 in Brooklyn to Julius Winograd and Celia Kalmanowitz, said Corey Winograd. When Winograd’s mother died two years later, his father raised him with the help of aunts. After graduating from high school, Winograd attended Long Island University where he studied accounting and received his law degree in 1965 from Brooklyn Law School.

But before graduating from law school, Winograd participated in the presidential campaigns of John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey, once traveling at the age of 24 by helicopter with President Johnson and an entourage of the Secret Service. for a campaign event at Eisenhower Park, her son recalls. After the political exposure, Winograd took his first law school job as an assistant attorney in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, Eugene Gold.

After spending four years in Gold’s office, Winograd worked for a time as legal secretary for Brooklyn Civil Court Judge Lester Sachs, passing up an appointment to become a Civil Court Judge and instead deciding to become a lawyer for full time defense. At that time, Winograd, his wife Elaine, and their growing family moved to Bellmore, a place they would call their home from 1968 to 2002.

Winograd’s big breakthrough as a defense attorney came with well-known gangster Paul Vario from Island Park, who led a Lucchese crime family team at a south Brooklyn junkyard. Unbeknownst to Vario, Brooklyn District Attorney Eugene Gold asked detectives to place an insect – the infamous “Gold Bug” – in a trailer that Vario was using as an office, court records show. Vario has been charged with various crimes, including corruption and official misconduct retribution. Vario was charged with paying several hundred dollars to an undercover detective and was convicted.

Winograd argued on appeal that there was no evidence that Vario or his middleman ever handled the money allegedly handed over to undercover cops, the lawyer told a reporter. The conviction was overturned and years later, Winograd recalled how he broke the news to Vario, who was sitting in an undershirt at a bar he owned. Winograd asked Vario to drink whiskey with him, he told a reporter.

“What is all this?” Vario asked.

“I want to toast you and celebrate because your conviction has just been overturned,” Winograd said.

Other legal victories followed, including for one of Vario’s sons, and with them, Winograd rehabilitated his reputation as an effective cross-examiner of government witnesses, people close to him have said.

Manhattan defense attorney Benjamin Brafman said on Monday that Winograd was not afraid to prosecute both prosecutors and their witnesses, a trait that made him one of the most successful defense attorneys. effective.

Former state Supreme Court justice Barry Kamins added that Winograd was proud to be prepared for his cross-examinations.

“He was a great guy, I loved him,” Bronx defense attorney Murray Richman said.

Lido Beach lawyer Barry Levin has spoken to Winograd frequently. “He was one of the nicest guys in the business and I will miss his friendship,” Levin said.

In 2002, Winograd defended designer Steve Madden after he was charged with inventory manipulation and other crimes related to his company Steven Madden Ltd. Madden was convicted, sentenced to 41 months in prison and released in 2005.

After his retirement, Winograd’s outgoing personality and storytelling skills made him a regular at weekly poker games in Florida and Brooklyn with former judges, former prosecutors and former legal colleagues, said his family.

Along with his wife Elaine and son Corey, both from Florida, Winograd is survived by his son Andrew of Boynton Beach, daughter Stacey Felice Holt of Providence, Rhode Island, and several grandchildren. A funeral was held at the Sinai Chapel in Fresh Meadows, Queens on Tuesday. Interment followed at Beth David Cemetery in Elmont.

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