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Prosecutor of Hoffa, Watergate Conspirators Dies at 81

Posted Oct 22, 2010 3:16 PM CDT
By Rachel M. Zahorsky

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James F. Neal, who prosecuted Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa and White House aides during the Nixon Watergate scandal, died at a Nashville, Tenn., hospital Thursday night at 81. The animated, steely-gazed litigator had been suffering from cancer, reports the Washington Post.

Neal, a graduate of the University of Wyoming and Vanderbilt University School of Law in Nashville, received his Master of Law degree from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. As a special assistant to then-U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy, Neal won the government’s first conviction against Hoffa after four prior failed attempts. He later defended Exxon Mobil Corp. in the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez oil spill and Elvis Presley’s doctor for oversubscribing drugs to the rock star. Other victorious court battles include the defense of Ford Motor Co., after the gas tank of a 1973 Ford Pinto exploded and killed the car's driver and the defense of "Twilight Zone” director John Landis against charges of voluntary manslaughter when actor Vic Morrow and two others died during filming.

Despite his competitive nature, Neal had an affinity for those he met in court, the Post notes.

"Jurors are people. I like people. All kinds of people," Neil said in a 1981 Associated Press interview, according to the Washington Post.

The ABA Journal profiled Neal in this March 2009 cover story.

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