Joseph Fallek, Lawyer Who Defended Police Officers, Dies at 93


Joseph Fallek, a former New York City police officer-turned-lawyer who pursued a high-profile career defending officers accused of misconduct, died on Dec. 9 at a hospital in Roslyn, N.Y. He was 93.

The cause was heart failure, his son Andrew said.

Given his personal experience and professional training, Mr. Fallek became the defense lawyer of choice for many law enforcement personnel who became entangled in allegations of bribery and other misdeeds following the Knapp Commission hearings into police corruption in the early 1970s.

As the general counsel of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, he pointedly reminded its members in a union newsletter that when officers are accused of crimes, as the title of his article put it, “The District Attorney Is Not Your Friend.” He urged them not to waive their rights against self-incrimination during investigations. He also resisted efforts by police brass to override a rule requiring investigators to wait 48 hours before questioning officers accused of misconduct.

Mr. Fallek successfully represented officers in some of the more sensational cases in which they were accused of wrongdoing.

In 1988 he won an acquittal for Sgt. Rudolph Hays, who had been charged with fatally shooting a woman after a violent argument over a minor car accident in Queens. Mr. Hays was convicted of manslaughter for firing the shots after dragging the woman from the car. He was beaten by an intervening passer-by.

The conviction was overturned on appeal. In a retrial, Mr. Hays was acquitted after Mr. Fallek persuaded a jury that his client had been temporarily insane.

In 1972 Mr. Fallek defended Meyer Rubenstein, a lieutenant who was dismissed from the force after a departmental trial determined that he had warned members of organized crime operating from a junkyard trailer in Brooklyn that their phones were being tapped.

Mr. Fallek also represented members of the narcotics Special Investigations Unit whose corruption was spotlighted in the 1981 film “Prince of the City,” based on a book by Robert Daley, a former deputy police commissioner in New York. And he defended Richard Pike, a former sergeant convicted in 1986 of using a stun gun to torture confessions from drug suspects.

Also in 1986, Mr. Fallek represented Frederick Sherman, a former police sergeant, in the hit-and-run manslaughter death of a 70-year-old psychologist in Manhattan. Mr. Sherman was driving a patrol car carrying two other officers who had been drinking to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. He was convicted and sentenced to four to 12 years in prison.

Joseph Fallek was born on July 1, 1926, in Brooklyn to Sam Fallek, a tailor, and Sadie (Helfman) Fallek, a homemaker.

After graduating from Lafayette High School, he attended Brooklyn College, from which he graduated with a degree in economics. He served in the Army in Europe in World War II and was an amateur boxer before briefly working on the police force. He earned his law degree at night early in his career from Brooklyn Law School.

His wife, Barbara (Koblentz) Fallek, died this year. In addition to his son Andrew, he is survived by two other sons, Lawrence and Steve Fallek; a daughter, Stacey Locker; nine grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.

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