Convictions: A Prosecutor’s Battles Against Mafia Killers, Drug Kingpins, and Enron Thieves

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As an Assistant United States Attorney, John Kroger pursued high-profile cases against mafia killers, drug kingpins, and Enron executives. In Convictions, Kroger reveals how to flip a perp, how to conduct a cross, how to work an informant, how to placate a hostile judge. Starting from his time as a green recruit and ending at the peak of his career, he steers us through the complexities and ethical dilemmas in the life of a prosecutor, where the battle in the courtroom is only the culmination of long and intricate investigative work.

2 thoughts on “Convictions: A Prosecutor’s Battles Against Mafia Killers, Drug Kingpins, and Enron Thieves

  1. Hansen Alexander
    10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Hansen Alexander (New York, New York) –

    This review is from: Convictions: A Prosecutor’s Battles Against Mafia Killers, Drug Kingpins, and Enron Thieves (Paperback)

    by Hansen Alexander

    It was my first run in with the hot tempered Governor of Arkansas in 1992. There were smudges on the policy papers I was responsible for photocopying and he had just noticed them when visiting the Little Rock headquarters. Policy was still operated in the Washington Campaign Headquarters on this winter morning, the writing mostly done by two Yale grads, Bruce Reed and John Kroger.

    The Governor was furious and the building was shaking. The only calm presence was Kroger, a former Marine. Bill Clinton’s overworked campaign plane was burning through most of our cash and we did not have the funds to replace our photocopy machine. “Go downstairs,” Kroger calmly told me, “and ask one of the law firms if you can borrow their copy machines to do the policy papers.” I did so, going from floor to floor until a cooperative young female attorney copied the papers for me–at her personal expense.

    John Kroger, soon to be moved to Little Rock, was not only the calmest person in the Washington office but was also one of the nicest. He was quiet but respectful of everybody. Like George Stephanapoulos, he was a good guy in the office who proved too pleasant to last long in the back stabbing world of presidential politics. Kroger left Washington in 1993 to go to law school after only a few months of exile at the Treasury Department, where he had been sent after speaking his mind during the transition period.

    Kroger became one of the best federal prosecutors of the late 1990s and early 21rst century, helping to send hard to convict godfathers, drug dealers, and Enron executives to prison. Convictions is his story. It is the best book about fighting crime since James B. Stewart’s 1988 classic, The Prosecutors.

    Three effective techniques employed by Kroger make this an extraordinary book. First, he is a very effective story teller. Each major case he prosecuted was land-mined with more twists and turns than an Agatha Christie crime novel. Witnesses lie to him, veteran defense lawyers always have legal tricks up their sleeves, Mafia dons try to charm him. Honest to a fault, Kroger details his learning curve as a prosecutor.

    Yet unlike George Stephanopoulos’s book All Too Human, where the TV morning personality’s accounts of political naivete sound false, Kroger’s mistakes are obvious and real. And he doesn’t make the same mistake twice.

    His delightful description of his six week, cross country bike tour that culminates in seeing Portland, a city he falls in love with and decides to eventually call it home, is a bonus.

    Second, because Kroger is a disciple of philosopher Emmanuel Kant, the ethics of breaking down human beings mentally to convict them wears him down because he realizes the human cost of turning witnesses, breaking men, humiliating them, leaving their dignity for dead no matter how horrible their crimes of murder, extortion, bribery, drug dealing, assault.

    Because Kroger is a throwback in an age of well connected and entitled professionals, a truly self made man, he was not too removed from the ethics of the family oriented Mafia or Hispanic drug gangs. His problems come in prosecuting the upper middle class Enron executives, who felt entitled to their ill gotten riches. Kroger frankly admits he does not understand these people at all, even though many of them were from his hometown of Houston.

    Third, the nerdy bookworm in Kroger remains the policy maven I remember from the 1992 presidential campaign.

    He admits that the economic changes in America and the world had more to do with defeating the Mafia than his dramatic convictions in an era when Mafia members ratted on each other to an unprecedented degree, although he gives President Reagan and United States Attorney Rudolf Giuliani their due in vigorously going after the Mafia.

    The Mafia’s drug supply, Kroger tells us, came from Africa and the Mediterranean. Successful law enforcement efforts drove the traffic to Latin America and South America. The Italian Mafia did not speak Spanish and were therefore cut out of the action. The decline of labor unions, often infiltrated and even run by the Mafia, declined dramatically from almost 50 percent of American workers in World War II to less than 10 percent in the 21rst century. In addition, the settled Italian neighborhoods of places such as Brooklyn, the old breeding grounds of the Mafia, have broken up with the suburbanization of America and the integration of formerly working class Italian Americans into professions that they were once discouraged from entering.

    And yet government does matter. The enactment of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act of 1970 (RICO) federalized crimes that involved an organized group and impacted interstate commerce. Instead of easily bought off New…

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  2. 2
    11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Unputdownable, May 21, 2008

    “Unputdownable” is an adjective normally used to describe potboilers, not non-fiction books written by attorneys about their cases. Yet once you start reading Convictions, by John Kroger, it’s impossible to put it down. With intelligence, insight, candor and a healthy dose of self-criticism, the former assistant US Attorney tells stories of chasing mobsters, fighting (and losing) the “war on drugs,” and the arduous task of representing the US government in court. Kroger is the rare thing: an outstanding lawyer who writes like a novelist and thinks like a philosopher. This is a remarkable book; don’t miss the chance to read it.

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