By Michael Lewis
Felix Lapine, a long-time criminal defense attorney in Rochester, N.Y. who had ties to the first two professional soccer teams in the city, has died.
He was 77.
While Lapine made major headlines by defending mobsters, he also had a major affinity to the game.
In 1972, he negotiated the contract of his brother-in-law, striker Carlos Metidieri with the Rochester Lancers after the Brazilian became the only player to win back-to-back scoring titles and MVP honors in the original North American Soccer League.
Lapine, who also was Metidieri’s lawyer said the contract was believed “to be the largest ever paid to a Lancer player,” he told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.
“We tried to get Carlos a contract without the option for next season included, but the club wouldn’t do it,” Lapine added.
Terms of that contract were not known.
Lapine, who was a former public address announcer for Lancers’ home games, also was not a shrinking violet to let his opinions known.
When Lancers owner John Petrossi considered having the team move out of the city after the team suffered a reported $10,000 loss after Pele performed in an international friendly at Holleder Stadium in 1973, Lapine criticized the team’s management.
He felt the team needed a public relations director, someone who knew the sport.
“The management is making the same mistake the old management made five years ago,” Lapine was quoted by the Democrat and Chronicle.
“They’re spending money for ads that didn’t work when they were in the American [Soccer] League four years ago. And there is no imagination in the publicity they do create.”
In August 1981, Lapine, who also was the club’s counsel, joined Gene Quatro, Simon Buisman and Bruno Coccia as a co-owner of the Rochester Flash, which played in the ASL.
“It’s something I always had wanted to do,” Lapine said at the time. “I like where the league is going, the budgets and the Americanization process. Its future is limitless.”
However, slightly more than a year later, Lapine decided to pull out as owner as debts rose in the club’s second season.
“I’m out even if they decide to go on,” he was quoted by the newspaper. It’s too much money and too much time. I’ve got to get on with my life and my real job.”
That job was as a defense attorney, something that Lapine forged quite a reputation dealing with many high-profile cases in Rochester crime history. His clients included Thomas O’Connor, a one-time guard who was charged and acquitted in the 1980 Brinks robbery and Thomas Torpey in a mob murder trial.
“He was a staunch defender of the rights of criminal defendant’s and a true courtroom presence,” his law partner Robert Napier said in a statement.
Lapine also served as a Monroe County assistant district attorney.
“He was certainly one of the best defense attorneys against whom I ever tried cases,” said U.S. District Judge Charles Siragusa, a former Monroe County first assistant district attorney, told the D&C. “If you were a prosecutor and Felix Lapine was on the other side, you were always worried.”
Because he had endured health issues, including glaucoma that left him legally blind, Lapine had not practiced law for more than a decade.
Lapine is survived by his former wife, Ann Lapine and his four sons, Maximillian, Misha, Edward and Andrei.