A “spellbinding” account of the New York judge who was brought down by prescription drugs, sexual obsession, and a shocking criminal conviction (Ann Rule).
He was the top justice of New York’s highest court. She was a stunning socialite and his wife’s step-cousin. In 1993 Sol Wachtler was convicted of blackmail and extortion against Joy Silverman, his former mistress. How did a respected jurist and one of the most prominent men in America end up serving time in prison? Linda Wolfe starts at the beginning—from Wachtler’s modest Brooklyn upbringing through his courtship and marriage to Joan Wolosoff, the only child of a wealthy real estate developer.
Joy Fererh was three and a half when her father walked out. When she and Sol met, he was fifty-five and nearing the pinnacle of his legal career. She was a thirtysomething stay-at-home mother who, with Sol’s help, made a career for herself as a Republican Party fundraiser. They kept their affair a secret—until an explosive mix of sex, power, betrayal, and prescription-drug abuse set the stage for the tabloid headlines of the decade.
Wolfe ( Wasted: The Preppie Murder ) here presents an involving, sympathetic if not fully reflective account of a case that became a tabloid drama. Former New York State Chief Judge Wachtler, arrested in November 1992 for harassing his former lover and step-cousin, Joy Silverman, cooperated with the author as did his wife, Joan. Silverman did not, so Wolfe's dual biographical sketches--of the lawyer rising in Nassau County Republican politics and a woman whose apparent avarice and manipulation served her well--relies on sources hardly friendly to Silverman. Wolfe draws on Wachtler and others to describe his sexless marriage, his headiness as the affair with Silverman bloomed in 1988 and how, depressed at their breakup, he posed as a private investigator and sent vulgar, threatening letters to Silverman, who enlisted the FBI. In March 1993, Wachtler pleaded guilty to one count of harassment and was sentenced to 15 months in prison. Wolfe suggests Wachtler's behavior can be blamed on hubris; she also accepts in part his argument that prescription drugs affected his actions. Photos not seen by PW. First serial to Vanity Fair; Literary Guild selection; author tour.