Manhattan Districit Attorney Robert Morganthau announced his plans to retire when his term ends in December, ending a 35-year reign as the top prosecutor for one of the country’s most prestigious law enforcement offices.
Morganthau, 89, brought many high profile prosecutions since taking office in 1975 that included international crimes, rivaling the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan for prestige.
Like President John F. Kennedy, a contemporary who appointed him U.S. attorney in Manhattan in 1961, Morganthau came from political progressive family.
His father, Henry Morganthau Jr. served as treasury secretary under President Franklin D. Roosevelt and was a aggressive advocate of rescuing Europeran Jews from the Nazi Holocaust during World War II. His grandfather, Henry Morganthau Sr., served as ambassador to the Ottoman Empire under President Woodrow Wilson.
Morganthau became the prototype for the character Adam Schiff in the television show “Law and Order.”
Morganthau inspired hundreds of prosecutors, including former Rockland District Attorney Michael Bongiorno, who worked for Morganthau from 1981 to 1995, serving as a deputy bureau chief.
Bongiorno, now with the state Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force, said his former boss was a man of integrity.
“It was an honor and privilege to work for and learn from Robert Morgenthau,” Bongiorno said. “Morgenthau’s emphsis on conducting thorough prosecutions while adhering to the highest ethical standards is an approach prosecutors should follow.”