Legendary lawyer dies: Charles Peruto Sr., 86

INQUIRER FILE PHOTO Chuck Peruto speaks to reporters in 1979 during one of his many cases as a defense attorney. He was widely considered one of the best local lawyers of his era.
INQUIRER FILE PHOTO Chuck Peruto speaks to reporters in 1979 during one of his many cases as a defense attorney. He was widely considered one of the best local lawyers of his era.
Posted: December 19, 2013

A. CHARLES Peruto Sr., a legendary Philadelphia defense lawyer, died last night in his Delaware County home. He was 86.

Peruto, who had a history of heart disease, had been ailing in recent months. He died with his family at his bedside.

His clients over the years included former Eagles owner Leonard Tose, Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Rolf Larsen, union leader W.A. "Tony" Boyle, and Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Esther Sylvester.

He famously battled against prosecutor Richard Sprague in the case of Jack Lopinson over the slaying of his wife and business partner, Judy Seflin Lopinson.

Peruto was never one to back away from a challenge. In fact, when asked if he'd take the opportunity to represent Osama bin Laden, he said he'd jump at the chance.

"Oh my God, yes," Peruto told Daily News columnist Elmer Smith in 2001. "I might take it myself, just to get close enough to hit him in the head with a crowbar."

Those close to him say that's classic Chuck - a top-notch lawyer with a flair for the dramatic.

"I went to school at night so I could watch him during the day," his son, A. Charles Peruto Jr., said last night. "He was just a warrior. He took no prisoners. I learned an immeasurable amount from him."

The younger Peruto said his father's passing came as a relief to the family.

"It was bad the past few days," Peruto said of his father's declining health. "There was nothing more they could do for him."

Friends and former colleagues took to social media last night, remembering the man who made such an impact in their lives.

"They broke the mold before they made him; Chuckie Senior was a classic Philly piece of work," Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Dick Cooper, retired from the Inquirer, wrote on Facebook last night. "Loved covering his trials because he always had guilty clients and worked every angle."

Like the time Peruto, according to Cooper, "defended a crooked video poker machine owner by claiming he was such a bad drunk, he didn't know he was bribing police officers because it happened after his six-scotch lunch."

Peruto lost the case after the client "fell asleep snoring on the defendant's table ... but it was great theater," wrote Cooper, who now lives in Maryland.

Part of the theater was watching Peruto fight for clients like Rocco Turra,  a South Philly career criminal and onetime Teamsters enforcer who was picked up on FBI tapes talking about the best way to murder mobster Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino.

"That's not the Rocky Turra I know," Peruto argue din court in 1998, referring to the FBI tapes. Peruto went to bat for Turra even after he'd been found guilty, painting him as a devoted husband, father and grandfather.

Peruto's funeral service will be held Saturday morning at St. Mary Magdalena Catholic Church, 24000 N. Providence Road, Media. The service time had not been confirmed as of midnight. Friends may call Friday evening at D'Anjoleill Memorial Home, 2811 West Chester Pike,Bromall.


On Twitter: @Vellastrations

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|