Feb. 2, 1926 – July 10, 2019
Buffalo attorney Robert P. Freedman is described by relatives as one of those “all or nothing” guys who threw everything he had into projects – whether he was representing an organized crime-connected bookmaker in court or representing his country in an international contract bridge competition.
“That was the way he was. If he couldn’t put everything he had into something, he just wouldn’t do it,” said his daughter, Erie County Family Court Judge Brenda M. Freedman.
A veteran of the U.S. Army Air Corps who tried to volunteer for duty during World War II at age 16, Mr. Freedman was a Buffalo criminal defense attorney for more than 40 years. He died Wednesday at the Buffalo Hospice facility in Cheektowaga, following a long illness. He was 92.
For decades, Mr. Freedman worked closely with his friend, the late, high-profile attorney Harold Boreanaz, to defend accused mobsters in some of the biggest organized crime cases in Buffalo and Rochester.
He also was a huge supporter of his wife and former law partner, Maryann Saccomando Freedman, when she became the first woman to serve as president of the Erie County Bar Association and the New York State Bar Association. They began dating after he met her at a Buffalo courthouse in 1960, when Mr. Freedman was representing a defendant in a case involving a notorious road paving scandal.
Raised on Buffalo’s West Side, Mr. Freedman was a bright student who skipped two grades and graduated from Lafayette High School at age 16. He tried to volunteer for the military during World War II, but he was rejected because of his age. So he studied at the University of Wisconsin for a year and then entered the military at age 17. He served at air bases in the United States for the duration of the war.
After the war, Mr. Freedman used the GI Bill to attend University at Buffalo Law School, where he earned his law degree. Hired by the U.S. Attorney’s office in 1952, he prosecuted many criminal cases in federal court and rose to the rank of first assistant in the office before leaving for private practice in 1958.
For many years, Mr. Freedman worked side-by-side with Boreanaz, widely considered one of the top Buffalo defense lawyers of the past century, as they represented accused mobsters, defendants in government corruption cases and others.
“My dad’s attitude on representing mob clients and bookmakers was that every person in this country deserves the full protection of the law, and every person deserves the best and most robust defense,” said Judge Freedman.
Mr. Freedman excelled at the difficult card game of contract bridge. Designated as a Life Master by the American Association of Contract Bridge, he competed in national and international bridge events and represented the United States in overseas bridge competitions on several occasions, his family said.
Later in life, especially after his retirement from law in 1993, he developed an expertise in blackjack. He stuck closely to his own system of betting and took delight when he would walk away from local casinos as a winner.
Mr. Freedman loved baseball, especially the New York Yankees. He enjoyed spending time with his six grandchildren.
Besides his wife of 58 years and his daughter, he is survived by a son, Donald V., and a sister, Nancy Schiller.
A funeral service was held Friday at Temple Beth Zion in Buffalo.