Rochester, N.Y. (WHAM) - Long-time criminal defense attorney Felix Lapine has died.
Lapine passed away Tuesday evening after a 45-year career in the Rochester area. Lapine was admitted to the New York Bar in 1969. He served as a Monroe County Assistant District Attorney before he went into practice with Robert Napier.
Some of the more high-profile cases in Rochester crime history were defended by Lapine. That includes Thomas O'Connor, a former guard who was charged and acquitted in the famous 1980 Brinks robbery case, as well as Thomas Torpey in a mob murder trial.
In one notorious case in 1996, Lapine agreed to defend Mark Mastin, an accused arsonist in a fire with multiple deaths, for $1 in Ontario County Court. Mastin was convicted in that case and is serving a 25 years to life sentence for murder, manslaughter and arson in Groveland Correctional Facility.
"He was a staunch defender of the rights of criminal defendant's and a true courtroom presence," Napier said in a statement.
Lapine often reminded reporters who covered grand jury inductments that a grand jury would indict a ham sandwich. The phrase became an oft-repeated fixture in the criminal justice system.
Former 13WHAM News reporter Jim Redmond recalled Lapine representing a man accused of stocking his party house with supplies stolen from a New York state faciity.
One by one, Lapine was able to have the charges dismissed until his client was charged only with stealing ice. The attorney then argued that, since ice was only frozen water, it had no value.
The client then walked free.
Lapine was 77.