Last of the Gladiators

A Memoir of Love, Redemption, and the Mob: by the Son of the Legendary Trial Lawyer Jimmy LaRossa

James M. LaRossa Jr.

From the 1960s until the turn of the 21st century, New York City was the world’s epicenter of organized and white-collar crime. During those four decades, the most feared Mafia chiefs, assassins, defrocked stockbrokers, Orthodox Jewish money-launderers, and Arab bankers sought the counsel of one man: my father, Jimmy La Rossa, a Kennedy-era prosecutor who became the defense lawyer of first resort in the big, important, highly publicized cases for four full action-packed decades.

On January 30, 2009, I snuck my famous and mortally ill father from New York Presbyterian Hospital to a waiting Medevac jet, where we flew in secret to a place few people would look for two die-hard New Yorkers: a town in Southern California aptly named Manhattan Beach. During our five years in exile, we, “the La Rossa boys” as we came to be known, made our mark as a most irreverent and unrivaled father/son duo. While I cooked him his favorite Italian dishes and kept him alive using the most up-to-date equipment and drugs, he recounted his legendary courtroom exploits.

Not only is True North a memoir about some of the seminal legal events of a generation, but it’s also a love story between a father and son—a theme not often seen in American arts and letters. Not until I wrote that story, though, did I realize that I had not saved my father. He, in fact, saved me. I became a better man and father thanks to him—a more joyous, grateful, and grounded soul.

Jimmy was, and always will be, my “true north.”