Legendary Philadelphia defense attorney Chuck Peruto Sr. dies

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A high-profile Philadelphia defense attorney known for his ability to sway a jury and confound witnesses has died.  A. Charles Peruto Sr. was 86.

“He was a giant, he set the bar so high I don’t think it will ever be reached,” said former Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Brian McMonagle.  He said Peruto always will be remembered as the “go to” defense attorney in the region.

“He could I think tell a story better than anybody I ever saw,” McMonagle said. “He had the ability to get witnesses to say whatever he wanted no matter who they were. It could be the most experienced law enforcement offer to the witness on the street. He simply had an uncanny ability to turn the story his way.”

McMonagle said he and other attorneys would sneak into the courtroom to watch Peruto’s cross examinations and closing statements

Former Philadelphia District Attorney and Judge Lynne Abraham says Peruto’s courtroom manner can never be duplicated.

“There isn’t a whole lot of bells and whistles like the kind he used to bring to bear in a courtroom.  It was electric, it was theater, it was the most sensational kind of cases you would ever see in your life.”

Abraham says many attorneys in Philadelphia are better at trial after being beaten by Peruto in the courtroom.  She says that compared to some lawyers that come in with a client’s name and a file, Peruto knew his cases inside and out, and was always several moves ahead of the competition, watching for every twist and turn of the trial and having counter moves ready if the case wasn’t going his way. 

She says he also had a special way to bringing the jury to his side to get the verdict he wanted.

Nino Tinari worked along side Peruto and agreed he had a way with a jury. 

“He could charm the snake right out of that basket,” Tinari said. “He charmed juries, he was winning in all ways, personality as well as the law. In my eyes there was no better in the city in terms of the legal profession.”

Tinari said Peruto had been ill for some time.

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