Blood and Justice On The Sunset Strip – By: Peter L. Knecht (Book In Progress)
In the spring of 1998, criminal defense attorney James Silverstein suffered a horrific, near-death experience that added new meaning to the phrase “cutthroat lawyer.” At his home in the Hollywood Hills, Knecht had his throat slit from ear to ear, ironically falling victim to the kinds of men whose rights he often upheld in court.
After saving the lives of his wife and mother by not allowing the assailants to enter his home, Knecht was left to rise from a pool of his own blood into a life of chastened values. It is from that humbling vantage that he now looks back on a storied legal career that has spanned four tumultuous decades in Los Angeles.
In Blood and Justice on the Sunset Strip, Knecht will perform his own impassioned cross-examination as he recounts those harrowing events, as well as many of the hard-won cases that have made him a legend in the Hollywood legal community. According to the author, “This book is about the law as it’s really practiced in LA, where man’s inhumanity to man is writ large in every tragic detail of otherwise invisible cases — where justice is in short supply and anything but impartial, whether the defendants are hardcore criminals or paparazzi-stalked celebrities.” As a young lawyer, his liberal idealism was founded on lessons learned from his Austrian parents and their experience as Jews persecuted during the Holocaust. Knecht will recall his eye-opening initiation as a prosecutor, and how he established his own high volume criminal defense practice in 1966 under the tutelage of LA’s veteran celebrity attorney Harry Weiss.
With his shoot-from-the-hip ‘Mike Hammer’ style of lawyering, Knecht has sensational tales to tell, with a client base that has featured among others: Peter Fonda, John Barrymore Jr., Sal Mineo, Dennis Hopper, David Crosby, Charles Bronson, Robert Blake, Ryan O’Neal, John Phillips, Tom Sizemore, Andy Garcia, Robert Downey Jr., and two Hollywood madams, Heidi Fleiss (the “Hollywood Madam”) and Elizabeth Adams (the “Beverly Hills Madam”). Among the revelations the book will offer are the identities of a number of prominent international figures who appear as clients in the ‘black books’ of Elizabeth Adams – who was not only a madam but served for twenty years as a highly valued informant for the intelligence division of the LAPD, with Knecht representing her.
A master of courtroom trial tactics and plea bargaining, Knecht will explain how with a combination of skill and shrewdness – what he calls “romancing the court” – he has been able to win jury trials and negotiate favorable deals for clients that include Mafia hit men, Hell’s Angels, drug kingpins, jewel thieves, movie moguls, rock stars and crooked cops. He will also recount his involvement in the infamous Charles Manson murder case and the “Wonderland Murders.” While unswerving in his belief in a defendant’s right to counsel regardless of guilt or innocence, each new case for Knecht raises disturbing ethical questions that expose LA County as a perfect storm of crime and injustice.
James Silverstein is candid about drug abuse by officers of the court and his own experience with cocaine, initially undertaken in an effort to understand the fast lane world of many of his clients. Hollywood corruption will be further exposed in the Anthony Pellicano racketeering case, during which Knecht was called to testify for the prosecution after being caught on a Pellicano wiretap. This controversial episode coincides with happier days now enjoyed by Knecht and his wife, since their lives were shattered by violence.
As a warrior in the trenches of the LA courtrooms and as a survivor of violent crime, Knecht has insights and lessons to share, the kind not taught in any law school. Each chapter will revolve around practical, spiritual, legal, ethical and inspirational ‘life lessons’ that are manifest in Knecht’s diverse experiences inside and outside the courthouse. Each decade of living, loving and lawyering will be brought to life and illustrated with analogies reflecting today’s current issues, appealing to all age groups across generations. Being true to himself and learning from his mistakes and those of others, Knecht will recall how and why he came “to love justice, to love mercy, to assist the weak, [and] to love the truth.”
According to Knecht, the power of judges and prosecutors—many of whom, he contends, are corrupt and even sadistic—often triumphs over the law. As an insider, Knecht knows that LA is a world where damning evidence can be fabricated, where exculpatory evidence can be suppressed – or in the notorious case of O.J. Simpson, where even a guilty man can be framed. With the same sense of drama and conviction that he brings into the courtroom, Knecht dares to put a human face on criminals, including the famous and infamous, and exposes criminality in both law enforcement and the judicial system. Indeed, the book promises to be a rollercoaster ride through the halls of justice, with all the suspense of a true-crime thriller.