Gerald Lefcourt made his name as a lawyer for the 1960s counterculture; Abbie Hoffman dedicated his classic Steal This Book to Jerry Lefcourt, Lawyer and Brother. The prominent New York defense attorney’s roster of former clients includes people like Hoffman, Harry Helmsley, Sly Stone, Sid Vicious, the Black Panthers, and Hunter S. Thompson. Right now, he’s representing Murder Inc. hip-hop moguls Irv and Chris “Gotti” Lorenzo.
I know now you’re representing Irv Gotti, but in the past—as early as the late ’60s—you were already getting involved with representing various musicians. I heard you represented Sly Stone. Well, it was unfortunately his down period when he would not show up to concerts and be the subject of mammoth lawsuits. And I represented him for six or eight months, and it was too difficult to deal with for me. [Laughs] He was just out there at that point.
And Sid Vicious? Well, Sid was charged in criminal courts here. I didn’t represent him long, because he ended his life before I could really do anything. The worst thing I probably did for him was to get him out on bail, because that led almost directly to what occurred [his death from an overdose].
Because he was celebrating? Celebrating, or carrying on, or whatever.
You’ve been representing Russell Crowe in the phone-throwing case. In what way is it different representing a movie star? It’s really not very different. It’s about media attention. And they all have to be dealt with the same way when you have a high-profile situation. The prosecutors react to high-profile situations in very different ways, so your job is to try to find the common thread of what makes sense, and what’s just in a particular situation. High-profile cases get different attention.
You’ve said that Abbie Hoffman was your favorite client. What made Abbie different from the rest of the people you’ve worked with? He was inspiring. He was shockingly brilliant, and had an understanding of government and our system, and what it took to move it. And he was a mentor. He was older than I. As a matter of fact, when we did sit down and met, we spent the night talking, and when the sun came up, he said, “Let’s make a pact. I will change society and make a revolution, and you keep me outta jail.” [Laughs] And I believed he could.
You never charged him anything. No. I was part of his movement. And my role was a little different, but I was very much a part of his movement. And that’s the way he was. He organized people.
You were good friends with Hunter S. Thompson, too. It was probably very hard for you to deal with the news a couple of months ago. Yeah. I went out for the memorial; it was quite an event. It was like, seven hours of drinking and speechifying, and more drinking, and speechifying, with the likes of Johnny Depp and Sean Penn and Jack Nicholson and all of the people that were close to him, and that he was affected by.
Did the protests of the last few years remind you at all of the ’60s? A little bit. One of the ones that reminded me a little bit of Abbie was that group Billionaires for Bush. That’s sort of an Abbie type notion.
If Abbie was still alive today, what would you want to say to him? I would say to him what all of the people who knew him loved him for: “What shall we do?” And he would know. He would know. He was a phenomenal leader; he always analyzed it and dealt with it, and dealt with it in a way that was funny and interesting—in an effective way.