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Legendary Philadelphia Attorney A. Charles Peruto Sr. Dies At 86

(File photo.  Credit: Thinkstock)

(File photo. Credit: Thinkstock)

Hanson_Tony--NEW Tony Hanson
Tony Hanson has spent his entire illustrious career at KYW Newsradio,...
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By Tony Hanson

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Philadelphia’s legal community today is mourning the loss of one of its finest jurists.

Legendary Philadelphia attorney A. Charles Peruto Sr. has died. He had been battling a number of health issues including cancer and heart disease.

KYW’s Tony Hanson reports on the man many colleagues consider the very best Philadelphia lawyer of his era.

Listen to Tony Hanson’s interviews in the CBS Philly podcast:

Time and again some of today’s best Philadelphia lawyers have pointed to A. Charles Peruto Sr., Chuck Peruto, as the standard.

“I remember the first time I saw him in the courtroom and I walked out of there thinking that’s the kind of trial lawyer I want to be. In a nutshell, he is the best I have ever seen,” says defense attorney and former prosecutor Brian McMonagle.

Attorney and son-in-law Perry deMarco Sr. learned from the master.

“He helped me become what I am today, that’s for sure. Anything I am as an attorney today, I owe to being a good student of Chuck’s,” says deMarco.

Attorney Michael Wallace is among the many lawyers who were influenced and inspired by Peruto Sr.

“I honestly suggest that whoever is in second place, and I can name a lot of great lawyers, they are a little ways, they are way behind Chuck,” says Wallace.

Peruto had extraordinary legal and courtroom skills, including a sense of humor that endeared him to jurors. Wallace saw it first hand on his second day working for Peruto, he got a new case dismissed.

“He gave me hell because I just cost us a fee. That was my second day on the job. No he didn’t really give me hell, sort of joking,” says Wallace.

(Hanson:) “But that would be his style.”

“Oh yeah, he did say something, you dope, you just cost yourself a fee,” says Wallace.

One lawyer says Peruto Sr. was literally invincible at his best. And after one of a string of acquittals in federal court in the early 1990′s, his lawyer son, Chuck Peruto Jr., put it this way.

“Only God saves more than ACP Senior, and it held true again.”

Veteran defense attorney Nino Tinari started out working for Chuck Peruto.

“He was my mentor and I attribute whatever success I have beginning with him. He was excellent in so many ways. Great trial lawyer. Great humorist by the way. A gentleman through and through,” says Tinaro.

“He is the best, I consider him to be the best. And I saw no equal during the long time I have been in business.”

One defense attorney described Peruto as a courtroom magician. He knew the law, but his talents went well beyond that. McMonagle says Peruto owned the courtroom.

“It was impossible not to like him, and when he tried a case, all 12 people regardless of who they were or where they were from, were going to come to the same conclusion, and that is that he was an engaging guy, a great guy, and they wanted to believe in him. And when you combine that with the fact he was a master storyteller, at one point in time during his career he was literally invincible,” says McMonagle.

With a flair for the dramatic, he owned the Perry Mason moment probably before Perry Mason.

“He did savor the kill. I mean he didn’t go right in for the jugular. He knew how to dramatize the kill and emphasize it with the jury,” says deMarco.

And jurors loved it, and like so many others, him.