Bay Ridge is reeling from the news that former Democratic District Leader Ralph Perfetto, one of the community’s favorite sons, was found guilty of masquerading as an attorney on Thursday — a crime many said would have been thrown out if prosecutors actually knew the 75-year-old activist.
“This is regrettable,” longtime Bay Ridge civic leader Larry Moorish said. “Ralph’s served Bay Ridge pro-bono for years and his intentions were never dishonest.”
Perfetto is not an attorney, but now the boxer-turned-private eye stands convicted of pretending to be one when he represented his cousin’s son during a court hearing on a misdemeanor in 2008.
But Perfetto said that the charges were bogus: he showed up in court as a private investigator, but court personnel thought he was an attorney and asked him to fill out a “notice of appearance” — a document indicating that he was his relative’s attorney. After that, he just answered the questions the judge asked him, Perfetto claimed.
But a jury didn’t see it that way: it found Perfetto guilty of “practicing and appearing as an attorney at law” — charges that could land the septuagenarian in jail for one year.
No one thinks that Perfetto will end up in prison, but many can’t believe a lifetime of good works could be overshadowed by a simple mistake.
“I know he was found guilty, but I can’t say anything bad about Ralph,” said Peter Killen, president of the Bay Ridge Lions. “I was stunned and I’m sorry for the verdict, but he was protecting a relative. It’s very likely he didn’t think he was doing anything wrong.”
The jury agreed with Killen. The law was clear, but jurors say they never thought Perfetto was trying to hoodwink anyone when he addressed the judge.
District Leader Joe Bova, a fellow district leader who has known Perfetto for more than 30 years, said everything the former district leader does is always with the best of intentions.
“He’s always there to help people,” Bova said. “It seems out of character that he knowingly did something illegal.”
Perfetto was a Democratic district leader in Bay Ridge for 18 years before being unseated by 24-year-old insurgent Kevin Peter Carroll, who got 62 percent of the vote in 2010. Throughout his tenure, Perfetto was considered the best known and best liked state committeeman in the borough.