The Back Page: Lamb Chops with DA Garcetti

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From the second issue of The Gotham Times:

The lamb was perfect, lightly braised with garlic and lime and served with the kind of rosemary potatoes that God would serve in heaven if he is, indeed, Italian.

And my lunch companion? None other than District Attorney Roger Garcetti, holding forth on Gotham's political scene, Batman, his predecessor Carl Finch, and his nemesis, the headline-hungry Harvey Dent.

It took months to set up this lunch. Garcetti is a man so dedicated to his job of prosecuting Gotham criminals he rarely even takes lunch. Instead, one usually finds this uncommonly determined man in his office in City Hall, writing up a brief, or following a case.

Garcetti threw down his briefcase and offered me a warm greeting. We met years ago at a bridge match in Gotham's Victorian Hotel - Garcetti loves bridge, which he calls a "true test of intelligence and character." From the moment he beat me, I knew that Garcetti would go far in this town.

And he has. Even before he was appointed acting DA to fill in for Carl Finch, Garcetti was a comer, a stand-up guy who people in the know went to when things had to get done. Garcetti quickly rose in Gotham, becoming chief consul for Gotham's Police Union among other high-profile assignments.

But Garcetti always had time for charity work. he headed up a humanitarian organization for the Fillipazzo Community Foundation, which provided for families of fallen city workers. Garcetti could do 100 things better than an average person could do one.

Today, however, he was unusually preoccupied. He was about to attend the memorial for his former boss, Carl Finch.

"Carl was a man who never let political considerations affect his prosecutions. That's a model that I, at least, choose to follow," said Garcetti.

Was this a dig at Harvey Dent, his political nemesis who has often been accused of choosing targets based on the amount of press coverage he could wring from them?

"Dent is an unusual character," Garcetti said. "You almost get the feeling that he believes the baloney he spews out."

Between dishes, Garcetti told me of Dent's voracious need for approval, his hunger for headlines, and of his "questionable" prosecutions of "good cops, family men who had put their life on the line again and again."

"Everyone wants to go after corruption," Garcetti said. "But by attacking our police department, Dent will cripple Gotham's only defense against crime, our cops. Dent's playing a dangerous game with the lives of Gotham citizens," charged Garcetti.

But Garcetti was nothing if not confident at lunch. "I've got the experience, and I will beat Dent," he promised.

One question on everyone's mind - why doesn't Garcetti fire Dent? He is, after all, his challenger's boss.

"I put the interests of Gotham citizens above my own. Firing Dent would slow down several prosecutions," Garcetti said.

They just don't make them like Roger Garcetti anymore. A workhorse, not a showhorse, Garcetti has got what Gotham needs - steady leadership in the fight against crime. And he leaves a generous tip, too.

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