Son of Sam wants proceeds from lawyer’s book to benefit victims

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NEW YORK (AP) – In a twist on the Son of Sam law named after him, serial killer David Berkowitz says any proceeds from his former lawyer’s book, “Dear David,” should benefit his victims.

Berkowitz, whose crime wave terrified the city in the 1970s, filed a lawsuit against his former lawyer, Hugo Harmatz, in June 2005 to get back letters, court documents, family photos and other items he says he gave to the lawyer for safekeeping. He sued Harmatz after learning that the lawyer planned to use the items for his book, which was published that month.

Harmatz, who practices criminal law in northern New Jersey, has said that when he first contacted Berkowitz he was clear about what he intended to do. His book includes letters written by a variety of people to Berkowitz, transcripts from the killer’s parole hearings and crime scene photos.

A hearing to set a trial date was scheduled for Monday before Judge Sherry Klein Heitler in Manhattan state Supreme Court.

Berkowitz’s current lawyer, Michael D. Heller, said Sunday that Berkowitz would not withdraw the suit unless Harmatz agreed not only to return Berkowitz’s possessions but also to turn over any money he makes from “exploiting” them to Berkowitz’s surviving victims and the families of the ones he killed.

“He has turned his life around and is very much concerned about the well-being of his victims,” Heller said.

Berkowitz is serving six sentences of 25 years to life for killing six people and wounding seven in 1976-77. He is imprisoned at the Sullivan Correctional Facility in Fallsburg, N.Y.

New York’s Son of Sam law bars criminals from profiting from their crimes by selling their stories to publishers. It was passed in 1977 after reports that Berkowitz was poised to earn a windfall for his story.

Heller said that Berkowitz believes, in the spirit of the law, that Harmatz should not profit from Berkowitz’s crimes either.

Messages left for Harmatz at two law office telephone numbers were not immediately returned Sunday.

Berkowitz got his nickname from a note left at a crime scene that read: “I am a monster. I am the Son of Sam.” He shot his victims, usually while they sat in cars, and was arrested in 1977.


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