Judge who oversaw cases involving New York officials dies
CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (AP) — U.S. District Judge Leonard Wexler, who oversaw high-profile cases involving New York public officials during three decades on the bench, has died. He was 93.
Wexler, who was based in Central Islip, died on Saturday, according to his son, William Wexler, a North Babylon, New York attorney.
Wexler said his father “was a great dad” who had just returned from a trip to Egypt and was hauling wood just before he died.
U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert, a longtime friend and colleague, said the elder Wexler “was part of the greatest generation in every possible way.”
Wexler oversaw a wide array of cases, including those of former Suffolk County Police Chief James Burke, sentenced to prison for orchestrating a department cover-up after beating a handcuffed man for stealing embarrassing items from his SUV; former Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota, fighting criminal charges linked to Burke, his protege; and former Oyster Bay town commissioner Frederick Ippolito, sentenced to prison for tax evasion.
Wexler also presided over the Baby Jane Doe case in the 1980s in which he upheld a Long Island couple’s right to withhold corrective surgery for their 17-day-old daughter born with serious defects.
The decorated World War II veteran relished his “heavy-duty” work schedule and mentoring law students, Seybert said, but still found time to enjoy life outside the courthouse.
“We went to the ballet with him and his wife. He was running ahead of us,” Seybert said of a January trip. “Someone who’s 93 years old. ... This was in the winter.”
In addition to his wife, Barbara Wexler, survivors include a daughter, Allison Smietanka, of Sherman Oaks, California; and sons Robert Wexler, of Alexandria, Virginia, and William Wexler.