Imagine going to work every day only to face the toughest criminals in Queens. Now imagine making a career out of prosecuting these murderers.
Such is the case (no pun intended) of Gregory Lasak.
The son of a textile-industry mechanic and a homemaker, Lasak, who remains a man of the people, has climbed the ranks, and was recently sworn in as a State Supreme Court justice. And, in typical fashion, when he was informed of his appointment, Lasak said that he "was humbled and honored."
His passion for justice and right began early. "When I was growing up in Woodside, it was a blue-collar neighborhood with cops and firemen. The 60s was a time of drug epidemics in Queens, so I saw a lot of my friends get hurt," said Lasak.
As a result, this native and life-long resident of Queens geared his education toward a career in law by attending Queens College and later New York Law School.
In March of 1978 he began his career at the Queens District Attorneys office, where it was his job to oversee the investigations and prosecutions of homicides. It is estimated that Lasak has been on the case for more than 3,000 homicides, supervising the prosecution of between 500 and 1,000 of these.
"I always wanted to try the toughest cases where the stakes are highest," said Lasak. "Ive just been lucky to have been assigned to murder cases at a young age."
His front page-making resume includes the Howard Beach racial attack, the 1982 slaying of a 17-year-old honor student, Queens biggest mass killing in College Point in 1995 and, more recently, the fast food bloodbath at a Flushing Wendys in 2000.
In addition, he headed the investigation of the 106th Precinct "stun gun" case and oversaw the murder investigations of Detective Anthony Vendetti, Police Officer George Sheu, Police Officer Charles Davis and the "Zodiac Killer."
Lasak has personally convicted every defendant he has taken to trial charged with a felony, including more than 20 defendants indicted on murder charges. He has been responsible for the prosecution of every case under the death penalty statute since its instatement in 1995.
But the case closest to his heart is the April 16, 1981 slaying of Police Officer John Scarangella and the wounding of his partner, Police Officer Richard Rainey in St. Albans by two alleged members of the Black Liberation Army.
"When we got the case, it had been tried two times with two hung juries. It was almost acquitted the second time," said Lasak.
Determined to get justice for the victims families, Lasak waged what we calls a "three month war," in which he was the victor.
But the true winner was Mrs. Scarangella, who remains close friends with Lasak to this day. "Mrs. Scarangella has been a model and I look to her for strength," said Lasak.
Additionally, Lasak has served as the chief of the Homicide, Major Offense and Supreme Court Trial Bureaus, and, beginning in 1991, as the executive assistant district attorney in charge of the Major Crimes Division.
But just as much as Lasak likes to "get the bad guy," so too does he like to exonerate those wrongfully accused, arrested, indicted or convicted.
Under the auspices of District Attorney Richard Brown, Lasak reopened these cases and succeeded in setting free more than 20 innocent men who otherwise would have spent the rest of their lives doing penance for crimes they didnt commit.
What makes Lasak such a good prosecutor is his ability to identify and empathize with not only the victims and their families, but also with the families of the defendants. "When I try a case, I feel like Im helping people achieve justice," said Lasak.
Perhaps this is why, in his 25 years at the district attorneys office, he has earned the respect and admiration of his colleagues.
Lasak will take the bench, bringing with him his past as a prosecutor and his innate penchant to do good.
As a State Supreme Court justice, he can be assigned to the civil term, which tries large lawsuits, such as medical malpractice, or to the criminal term, which prosecutes all felonies.
Regardless of which, Lasak has said, "I intend to keep doing what Ive been doing for 25 yearsdoing the right thing."
 

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