By Brian Prowse-Gany and Joyzel Acevedo
At the Greenberg Law office in Brooklyn, framed advertisements reading “The Real Call Saul” hang on the walls between tongue-in-cheek posters for movies like “Devil’s Advocate.” A small, wiry-haired man sits at a desk with sheets of notes splayed out before him. “My name is Howard Greenberg,” he says. “I’m a poor excuse for a criminal defense attorney. And that’s everything you need to know.”
Greenberg is no one to mess with: He has garnered a reputation as one of Manhattan’s craziest – and most successful – defense lawyers, having represented roughly 4,000 defendants and produced an unusually high number of acquittals and dismissals in cases where such results were thought to be impossible.
“It would be my privilege to defend a Nazi,” Greenberg says. “It would be my privilege to defend Charles Manson. You don’t go to the Hall of Fame winning easy cases. … You hone your skills defending the dregs of the Earth, so that the occasionally really innocent person gets the benefit of your work.”
Greenberg’s outrageous courtroom tactics and ability to successfully represent the lowest of the low has led to the press dubbing him the real “Better Call Saul.” “I disavow that comparison because Saul routinely cheats,” he says. “And I only cheat from time to time.”
In this week’s episode of Yahoo News’ Unfiltered, we sit down with infamous criminal defense attorney Howard Greenberg, a man who isn’t afraid to defend the worst of the worst and who believes the justice system and the government are far from perfect.
“We are called upon every day to turn water into wine,” Greenberg says of his profession, in which he has labored for almost 30 years. “We get paid to do the impossible, and I say impossible because we go up against the other side and they have all the cards,” he says about the criminal justice system.
“Everything is admissible if the prosecutor wants it,” Greenberg adds, “and nothing’s admissible if the defense attorney wants it.”
One of Greenberg’s most high-profile cases was the murder of 8-year-old Leiby Kletzky by Levi Aron on July 11, 2011. Nicknamed the Butcher of Bensonhurst, Aron kidnapped Kletzky as he was walking to school and subsequently murdered and dismembered him. What was unusual about the crime was that it occurred within the insular, relatively safe Brooklyn Hasidic community.
Greenberg, one of several attorneys representing Aron, spurred harsh backlash when he implied that the defendant’s actions resulted from his being a product of inbreeding. “Experts told us to explore the theme [of inbreeding],” he explains. “And when I said that to the press, the whole world went crazy.” One such criticism came from New York state Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who called Greenberg a “miserable, self-hating Jew.”
Such comments seem to slide off Greenberg. “The only way to ensure that the truly innocent person gets a fair shake is to defend the worst among us,” he says. “There’s no such thing as going too far. If you don’t go over the line, you’re not doing your job.”
Indeed, Greenberg is no stranger to taking things to a whole new level when it comes to defending a client, even getting himself admitted to the emergency room the day before a big trial. “I go there for the ancillary purpose of getting one of these,” he says, showing off a medical wristband. “And that will adorn my wrist throughout the pendency of the trial. Sometimes if I have back-to-back trials … I keep it on for months at a time.”
“I want the jury to wonder, why am I wearing this? In my fantasy mind I imagine them .. saying to themselves, ‘My God, this lawyer must be under treatment for cancer. And look how heroic this son of a bitch is here.’”
Even Greenberg’s office freezer plays a role. “You’ll see names on pieces of paper,” he says while looking at thin strips of paper curled up among the ice, explaining that this is part of a plan to “cast spells on my adversaries.”
“I freeze [them],” he says. “And you know what? That s*** works, man.”
Greenberg doesn’t believe he’s the only one going to extreme lengths. “You know, when they start fighting fair, I’ll tone down my act.”
Is there anyone Greenberg wouldn’t be able to defend? When it comes to the recent mass shootings, domestic terror events and infamous sexual harassment cases, Greenberg rises to the challenge and provides the answer: Not really.
“Yes, I would defend the deranged coward who mowed down the bicyclists on the bike path in Manhattan,” he says. “For him, I’m looking for nullification. Muslims have a lot of legitimate grievances against the United States, and I would hope to find one person [on the jury] with whom that proposition resonates.”
Greenberg also says that he “would defend Harvey Weinstein with great pleasure, and the theme of the theory of his defense is he’s sick.”
When it comes to the individuals he defends, Greenberg seems to show an endlessly generous side: “I cannot apply the label ‘evil’ to someone who begs me in some manifestation for help.”
For those finding themselves in trouble, Greenberg has three words of advice: “Better. Call. Howard.”