Lev Dassin '90, acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, profiled in the New York Times

Since becoming the acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York following the resignation of Michael Garcia last month, Lev Dassin ’90 has been anything but a placeholder, says the New York Times.

In his short time in office, Dassin, who will hold the position until President-elect Barack Obama assumes office and names a successor, has charged Bernard Madoff in a Ponzi scheme that may be the largest fraud in Wall Street history and Marc Dreier, a prominent lawyer who is accused of cheating hedge funds and investors. He also has secured guilty pleas from two men accused of aiding Hezbollah terrorists and from a third man accused of leaking documents to the Israeli government.

Despite his high-profile position, Dassin, who has spent almost ten years as a federal prosecutor, a tenure split between the Clinton and Bush administrations, has stayed largely out of public view, speaking mostly through prosecutors in court, as he did recently when requesting that Madoff’s bail be revoked. According to the Times, those who have worked with and against him see him as “a tenacious, nonpartisan advocate who moves aggressively where necessary and is willing to make hard decisions.”

Defense lawyers who have met Dassin said he is as congenial as ever but takes strong stands to defend his office’s position. “You always had the feeling that he really respected the fact that you were there,” lawyer Ronald Rubenstein told the Times, “and that you had a legitimate position to advance, even though he gave me nothing.”

But the Times observed that Dassin also has a sense of humor. In talks with his assistants, Dassin liked to quote Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt as well as his favorite movies. “Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?” he would declare in a mock rallying cry, mimicking John Belushi’s line in Animal House.