Ad Spot

One on One: Taking a punch

By D.G. Martin

“And he can take a punch.”

A former colleague was describing John Gleeson, who popped into the news last week when U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan appointed him to an unusual assignment.

Judge Sullivan presided over the prosecution of retired General Michael Flynn for lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. After the judge accepted Flynn’s guilty plea, it became his responsibility to impose the sentence.

But before sentencing took place, Attorney General William Barr directed Justice Department lawyers to move for Sullivan to dismiss all charges against Flynn, explaining that, based on a new review, Flynn had not committed the crimes to which he had pled guilty.

Sullivan is on the spot. He had accepted Flynn’s guilty plea and arguably has the power and responsibility to move forward with the sentencing. On the other hand, ordinarily if a prosecutor determines that a defendant is innocent and asks for the charges to be dropped, a judge would be accommodating.

Not necessarily this time, thought Judge Sullivan. Before he decides to dismiss the charges against Flynn or move forward with sentencing, he wants to hear arguments against Barr’s and Flynn’s assertion that no crime was committed.

John Gleeson, a former federal judge and, before that, a prosecutor of New York mobsters, is the man Judge Sullivan chose to make those arguments.

Who is this man who will be confronting the combined forces of Flynn’s attorneys, Barr’s Justice Department, and President Donald Trump?

As a federal prosecutor Gleeson led the successful effort to finally convict mobster John Gotti in 1992. According to a May 14 article in The New York Times, Gordon Mehler, Gleeson’s co-worker during that time said, “There was a feeling among our generation of prosecutors that John was a rock star. He was super smart, but also incredibly hardworking.

“And he could take a punch.”

Learning about Gleeson, I realized how important it is to be able to take a punch. I thought about a long list of people I admire, who after taking a hard punch in the gut, were able to work through the experience and turn it into a positive.

Gary Pearce’s 2010 biography of former Governor Jim Hunt told one of my favorite stories about how taking a punch can lead to important accomplishments.

In the 1964 governor’s race, the ambitious Hunt worked hard for Richardson Preyer, hoping to gain an important position in Preyer’s administration. Preyer’s loss ended that hope. Later in the year, Hunt flunked the bar exam, postponing his aspiration to practice law.

That double punch in the gut led to his leaving North Carolina for a two-year stint as an economic advisor in Nepal. He worked at a high level to develop an economic plan for the entire nation. Hunt says, “I learned to get a big view of a country . . . What you have to do to develop a nation – the importance of educating people, providing infrastructure like roads, electricity, banks.”

His time in Nepal made him more pragmatic and less ideological. “It isn’t just a matter of dividing the pie. You can grow the pie. That’s a fundamental thing to know.”

When Pearce’s book first came out, I wrote, “My theory, based on Pearce’s short description of the Nepal experience, is that it, as much as anything else, set Hunt apart. If Richardson Preyer had won or Jim Hunt had passed the bar exam, Hunt would have missed Nepal. His life and North Carolina history would have made for a much different story from the one Gary Pearce tells so well.”

Hunt’s ability to take a punch and come back stronger made North Carolina a better place.

Hopefully, Gleeson’s proven ability to take one will serve the public similarly.

One thing for sure, if he challenges the forces of the president, those punches will come hard and fast.

D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” Sundays and 3:30 p.m. and Tuesdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV. The program also airs on the North Carolina Channel Tuesdays at 8 p.m. and other times.

FOR MORE COLUMNS AND LETTERS TO THE EDITOR, CHECK OUT OUR OPINION SECTION HERE.

Lifestyles

New bicycle exhibit opens at Roanoke Island Festival Park

Crime

North Carolina man sentenced to five years in prison, three years of supervised release for firearm charge

Crime

Two men dead after interstate shooting in North Carolina

Lifestyles

Hundreds gather to witness release of two sea turtles at Coquina Beach

News

Major North Carolina hospital systems to require staff to get COVID-19 vaccine

News

Firefighters rescue multiple children from North Carolina house fire

Lifestyles

Outer Banks Community Foundation grant deadline nears

Crime

Cooper announces reward for information on Guilford County murder

Lifestyles

Fascinating fasciation: Roanoke Island garden experiences rare phenomenon

Crime

North Carolina man sentenced to over 17 years in prison for soliciting minors for photos

News

Opioid settlement: North Carolina’s share could be $750M

News

Cooper moves to end North Carolina’s statewide mask mandate

Crime

Uber driver charged with kidnapping, sexually assaulting customer in North Carolina

News

Convenience store stop for gas, hot dog and scratch-off tickets yields $200,000 prize for North Carolina man

Crime

North Carolina man sentenced to over 17 years in prison for stabbing detention center guard

News

Kitty Hawk trail connector a team effort

News

Former North Carolina Rep. Melanie Goodwin remembered as a trailblazer

Crime

North Carolina man sentenced to 10 years in prison for ammunition charge

Business

COA receives donation from Paul Mann Custom Boats, Inc.

Business

Willie Mae Overton celebrated for 60 years with Elizabeth City hospital

Lifestyles

Dare County holding back to school COVID-19 vaccine clinics

Lifestyles

Christmas in July event coming to Kill Devil Hills

News

Dare County update on COVID-19

Crime

NC court rules magistrate can be sued for damages over misdirected commitment paperwork