Confessions of a Hayseed DA
Alternative formats available from:
Table of contents
An idealistic, occasionally naïve and somewhat irreverent young attorney becomes the District Attorney of Rockland County, New York, in the 1960s and faces the challenges of fighting crime in a rapidly changing world.
In the 1960s, the small county of Rockland, north of New York City, went through a period of rapid expansion. Although beneficial, this explosive growth also led to the unwelcome encroachment of crime like the county had never seen before. Enter Robert Meehan, a young, idealistic defense attorney who hatched an impossible scheme to become the first Democrat elected District Attorney of Rockland County in more than half a century. In this compelling page-turner, Meehan takes us through his journey from naive do-gooder to seasoned prosecutor, investigating and solving heinous crimes and surviving an attempt on his life that upended his family's world. This manuscript, completed in 1978, was discovered by Meehan's daughter years after his passing. She has edited the text, researched cases cited by her father, and interviewed some of the key players whose names appear within these pages.
Robert R. Meehan (1930–2004) was District Attorney of Rockland County, New York from 1965 to 1974. He later served as New York State Special Assistant Attorney General for Medicaid Fraud and as Rockland County and New York State Supreme Court Judge until his retirement in 2000. Kathleen Meehan Do is a communications specialist who has served in the administrations of New York Governor Mario M. Cuomo, Pennsylvania Congressman Joseph Sestak, and Rockland County Legislature Chairwoman Harriet Cornell, as well as college presidents in New York and New Jersey.
"…a deeply personal and insightful piece of history that sheds light on a transformative period in Rockland County." — Rockland County Times
"A rollicking, poignant, and perceptive excursion into the life and times of Robert Meehan, the Rockland County, New York, DA, in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Discovered by his daughter more than fifteen years after his death, Confessions of a Hayseed DA provides unforgettable insights into the political campaigns, the dramatic courtroom triumphs and missteps and the family life of a prosecutor who always pursued justice." — William K. Marimow, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist (1978 for Public Service and 1985 for Investigative Journalism), former Editor of the Baltimore Sun and the Philadelphia Inquirer, and former Vice President for News at NPR
"I wish I could have met Robert Meehan. As a District Attorney, I love a good legal fight and I think we would have had a lot in common. DA Meehan fought fervently for the rights of both victims and the accused. And he refused to allow those rights to be subordinated to the political and social winds of the time. Although it was written more than forty years ago, this book is extraordinarily timely. The overarching message—that prosecutors have the obligation to represent all of their constituents with tireless fervor and conviction, regardless of win-loss records or popularity contests—should be shared with all those who aspire to represent the People in a court of law. I was particularly moved by DA Meehan's successful efforts to change the laws of New York State in regard to the rights of rape victims. This is a passion that we share. It was a privilege to read this book." — Summer Stephan, District Attorney, San Diego, California
"Confessions of a Hayseed DA is a captivating portrayal of the sorrow, tragedy, joy, goodness, sadness, and even humor of those who must answer for themselves before the law. The confessional of Robert Meehan is a testament to a man's steadfast principle of fairness in adjudicating the law with too rare compassion and understanding." — Joe Sestak, former US Congressman (PA-07) and Vice Admiral, US Navy
"To read Confessions of a Hayseed DA is to be reminded of what the law is really all about: It's about people. Robert Meehan was district attorney of Rockland County, New York for nine years ending in 1974. His posthumous memoir—it was discovered and edited by one of his daughters after his death—is part Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, part It's a Wonderful Life, and all rich with real life. Unlike the hard-boiled crime movies he grew up loving, Meehan's time as DA is filled with the kind of tight community connections that remind us that both victims and criminals have families, friends, and histories. Meehan's integrity leaps off the page. He may not have always been the most popular man in Rockland County, but it's easy to see why he was respected." — Amanda Bennett, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and investigative journalist, former Director of Voice of America, former Executive Editor of Bloomberg News, and former Editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Lexington Herald-Leader
"Robert R. Meehan has published posthumously an unexpected gem in Confessions of a Hayseed DA, thanks to the perseverance of his daughter, who discovered the long-forgotten manuscript. Meehan takes readers behind closed doors of the Rockland County District Attorney's Office and delivers a narrative that is by turns a page-turning exposé of a fugitive homicide case, a frank examination of the politics of the criminal justice system, and a love letter to his loyal staff and supportive wife. The prose is lively, self-deprecating, and shot through with authenticity and a sly humor." — Paul Grondahl, author of Mayor Corning: Albany Icon, Albany Enigma, journalist, and director of the New York State Writers Institute
"A hayseed? While he may have lived in 'upstate' New York, this humble public servant was erudite and sophisticated. As the son of the county's Chief Medical Examiner and later as a prosecutor for then Assistant Attorney General Robert R. Meehan, I knew the players depicted and many of the featured cases. The graphic description of the train bus collision injected a level of detail I never knew and reignited many of the emotions from that tragedy. I am grateful to this great man for memorializing these historical events and providing a unique insight into our criminal justice system when placed in the hands of a man with unwavering ethics, integrity and compassion." — New York State Supreme Court Justice Thomas P. Zugibe, former Rockland County District Attorney, 2008–2019
"An entertaining and compelling account of the dynamic challenges facing the chief prosecutor of a small scenic county just thirty miles north of New York City as he deals with the vagaries and absurdities of crime in the community he cherished and called home. This book reminds us of the delicate decisions and balance required to ensure justice in our communities while protecting the rights of the accused as provided for in our constitution. In comparison to the polarizing times we live in today, DA Meehan's thoughtful, ethical and occasionally self-effacing approach to criminal justice serve as a profound reminder that 'justice for all' is only possible with the dedication of good public servants who respect and are committed to the search for the truth in all matters large and small." — Anne Crowley, former Press Secretary and Director of Communications for New York Governor Mario M. Cuomo, and former Executive Vice President, Corporate Affairs for Fidelity Investments