Business & Entrepreneurship

The scene of the crime

Failures, I’m told, are humanizing.

(I’m often told this by people who are implying that I’m more human than most.)

In that spirit, I offer a tale about Bridget Brennan ’77, JD’83, New York City’s special narcotics prosecutor — a tale that didn’t really fit in the article “Scripts and the City.”

Before she became one of the country’s most powerful prosecutors, Brennan began her legal career oh and one.

Who was the (alleged) master criminal who bested Brennan in the courtroom? Was it the leader of a murderous gang or a sophisticated international money launderer? No — it was a turnstile jumper in the subway.

“Sam Chance,” Brennan says, having no problem remembering his name. “It was what we call a fare beat — where somebody doubles up in a turnstile with somebody else, without paying the fare.”

When he was charged, Chance pled innocent and went to a jury trial, and Brennan, then a new assistant district attorney, was assigned to prosecute. The defense strategy was simple: Chance argued that he didn’t jump in the turnstile on someone else’s fare — someone else jumped on his fare. That was enough to provide the jury with reasonable doubt. Chance was acquitted.

But he wasn’t forgotten. Thirty years later, Brennan still has the details of the case etched in her psyche.

Oh and one: it sticks with you.

Published in the Fall 2013 issue


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