Outtakes and Vagabonds: Crossing paths with Joe Tacopina

At this point in our national saga you’ve heard of the name Joe Tacopina. How long you’ll need to remember it, I’m not sure. There is a legion of lawyers reportedly representing TFG; Tacopina is merely the current heartthrob.

The circumstances through which I encountered Tacopina are hazy, and were hazy at the time. He represented a cop named Thomas Wiese who was one of the defendants in a federal criminal trial.

Our client, who was Black, had been the victim of an awful assault by white cops. The copsĀ  were to be tried in the Eastern District Federal Court, in Brooklyn.

The case for which our law firm represented our client was not the criminal case, however. It was a civil case filed against the City, the NYPD and individual police officers, as well as the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA), whose notorious rule to protect their membership from immediate questioning in a criminal case for which they might be defendants was called the 48-Hour Rule.

Here’s the hazy part:

Tacopina called our office and asked for a quiet conversation with “my” guys (easiest way to identify them here), the lawyers I worked for. Quiet, in this case, meant more or less clandestine; as one of the defendants‘ lawyers, there was a question of the ethics in his request to talk to our client’s civil lawyers, never mind the reason.

When good lawyers confront an unusual situation which could be ethically problematical, they call other lawyers whose specialty is legal ethics for advice.

Such calls were made. Advice was given.

I never learned what that conversation was about and I know very little else, although I remember coats. My Guys put their coats on to meet Tacopina outside the office, I think maybe in a park.

I do remember Tacopina’s coat when he came to our office. His coat was dark, navy I think, elegant and proclaiming great expense. My impression of Tacopina? Good-looking, if a little overweight showing in his face. A guy who wanted to be, or thought of himself as being, a GlamourBoy. Strolled in with a high profile attitude.

The guys I worked for wore parkas and were high profile. I was able, therefore, to judge quickly the persona Tacopina was working hard to broadcast. The profile didn’t make the heights. Moreover, I’d never heard of him before I typed his name next to Wiese’s in the long case information sheets I maintained.

The past couple of weeks I’ve seen Tacopina on TV. It’s twenty-five years later but he looks the same, although a little chunkier. Hair still very black.

Wiese, Tacopina’s client, was convicted; his conviction was overturned on appeal. Last I read about Tacopina was from a courthouse, either before or after the appeal. He’d flung his arm over Wiese’s shoulder and when asked by a reporter whether Wiese would be applying for re-admission to the NYPD, Tacopina said something along the lines of how the NYPD didn’t deserve “Tommy.”

N.B. Our client’s civil case was settled for over $8 million, a share of which was paid by the PBA, the first time anyone had ever successfully breached the PBA’s own Blue Wall of Silence.


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