For 25 years Elizabeth Loewy '84 has prosecuted all kinds of cases in the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, including petty crime, domestic violence, sex crimes and homicide.
But none have thrust her into the spotlight like the recent five-month long trial, involving the late legendary New York City philanthropist, Brooke Astor.
"Despite what some might think, the Astor case was not all that different from other elder abuse prosecutions," Loewy told a crowded room of students, faculty and outside visitors while on campus in February, "except that it involved a well-known victim, large sums of money - more than $30 million - and high profile witnesses including Henry Kissinger and Barbara Walters.
"In that the trial received considerable coverage in the press, I am hopeful that we raised awareness about the issue of elder abuse, the fact that its symptoms are often hidden and that it can happen to anyone" she explained. "Believe it or not, people often characterize the abuse of an elder by relatives as a 'family matter,' which is similar to the response we'd sometimes hear on domestic violence cases 15 years ago.
"When children physically or financially abuse their parents or grandparents, whether it's because they need cash to support a raging drug habit or because they are in financial trouble and feel entitled as 'heirs,' people need to understand that this is criminal activity. There is no exception in the assault or larceny statutes for relatives - even if that relative is the sole beneficiary in Mother's will. You don't get it early without Mother's knowledge and consent - even if Mother is impaired."
Loewy, the 2010 Alumna in Residence, spent the day visiting classrooms, meeting with students, faculty and state-level leaders before delivering a talk on her experience heading Manhattan's Elder Abuse Unit, where she oversees some 600 cases a year.
Professor Mary Lynch, formerly an assistant district attorney in Manhattan, introduced Loewy for her talk. Loewy talked about her work in the Office of District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, describing the genesis of the Elder Abuse Unit and the various types of cases they handle, including the indictment involving the late Mrs. Astor. The Scheme to Defraud, Grand Larceny, Conspiracy and Forgery charges against Mrs. Astor's son, Anthony Marshall, and a New York attorney named Francis Morrissey, resulted in a conviction after a trial in which 70 witnesses were called to the stand.
Loewy told students that law school was not an easy road for her, and that she questioned at times whether she had made the right decision in pursuing a legal career. After working in a law firm and still feeling restless, she interned for a summer at the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, under the recently retired "amazing" 90 year old Robert M. Morgenthau. She was inspired immediately and never looked back. She encouraged students who might not be a right fit for a law firm to consider a career in public service.
Loewy has a family - a husband and two children - and despite her work load, manages to stay connected to the law school. She co-authored a book with Rose Mary Bailly, Special Counsel to the Aging Law & Policy Program of Albany Law's Government Law Center, entitled Financial Exploitation of the Elderly: Abuse of Trust in the Golden Years (Civic Research Institute, 2007).