He was, to the popular eye, Eliot Ness reincarnated, an unsparing prosecutor for a crime-shadowed age. And when the United States attorney in Manhattan resigned in January 1989, he earned a tabloid salute:
“Good News for Bad Guys,” The Daily News proclaimed. “Crimebuster Giuliani Steps Down.”
Rudolph W. Giuliani waved his prosecutor’s scythe in the 1980s, and Wall Street barons, political bosses and Mafia dons seemed to fall in serried rows. He inspired cinematic characters, took ovations in restaurants and battled the Reagan administration officials who had appointed him.
Michael Dowd, a streetwise lawyer whose trial testimony about bribe-taking exposed the ethical rot afflicting New York politics, found shelter beneath Mr. Giuliani’s cloak. “No one was going to back him off,” Mr. Dowd said. “He was charismatic, relentless and endlessly loyal.”
There was, however, another side to the young prosecutor, a moralistic and carnivorously ambitious man who desired public office. Mr. Giuliani, who was 38 when he became United States attorney in 1983, threatened his targets with long prison sentences, and he infuriated judges with leaks of grand jury testimony to the press.
His agents handcuffed Wall Street arbitrageurs before prosecutors investigated them. Apology was weakness; skeptics were “jerks.”
Like a medieval crusader, he rarely flinched at hard tactics in pursuit of exalted goals.
In 1987, about 50 armed marshals raided and locked down the investment firm Princeton/Newport Partners. A federal appellate court overturned that racketeering conviction, but the firm remained shuttered. “We were in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said financier Jay Regan, a principal at Princeton/Newport. “It’s strange to be sacrificed on someone’s altar.”