William A. Gerard, attorney known for pro bono work, dies at 63

Attorney left his mark on Rockland County with diverse accomplishments 

BY CAROL MCILMURRAY

Photo from Lohud

Rockland attorney William A. Gerard, who represented many clients without regard to payment, passed away on April 20 at Good Samaritan Hospital after collapsing on the soccer field due to heart issues during his adult league game. William Gerard resided in Snedings Landing and was known to friends as ‘Tony.’

Gerard was known to take many cases pro bono because he felt an obligation to defend the rights of people in need of legal counsel. He occasionally took a side in local politics, such as when he spearheaded an effort to remove Spring Valley Mayor Demeze Delhomme from office, a case currently being deliberated on by an arbitrator appointed by the New York Appeals Court.

Lawrence Weissmann, who often practiced law with Gerard, said, “He fought hard and tough regardless if you could or couldn’t pay him. He put his own money up to stop an eviction and in another case he paid for an expert himself to help prove a client’s innocence.”

Weissman continued, “There will be other criminal defense attorneys but I don’t think there ever be a new Tony Gerard. I was honored to call him my friend.”

Kenneth Del Vecchio of Warwick, practicing criminal attorney and founder of the Hoboken Film Festival, took up the case against Delhomme that Gerard spearheaded. The NY State Appeals Court ruled that Gerard could not proceed as attorney for the complainants because he briefly served as a Spring Valley village attorney.  Del Vecchio said of his fallen colleague, “Gerard was the best of attorneys…He was super intelligent, with superior common sense.  [Gerard] was a great writer, as well as a passionate and dedicated litigator who pursued justice to the highest degree.”

Gerard shared office space with civil right attorney Conrad Lynn, a lawyer who also represented clients without regard to payment. Lynn, who passed away at 87 in 1995, represented people targeted by the government such as Puerto Rican nationalist and at one point famously sued to desegregate the U.S. armed forces.

Friends say Gerard looked up to Lynn as a mentor and carried on the fight to represent those based on unfair circumstances.

Gerard spent 14 long years working to clear Spring Valley Trustee Vilair Fonvil of dubious misdemeanor election fraud charges filed against him by former Rockland DA Michael Bongiorno. Finally in 2014, the charges were dropped.

While fighting the election fraud charges filed against Fonvil was a passion of Gerard’s, Fonvil now faces far more serious accusations.  Only days after Gerard’s death Fonvil was arrested by the DA’s Office on charges of grand larceny. District Attorney Thomas Zugibe claims the trustee stole money from a village camp program.

Gerard attended Columbia University and later went on to graduate Pace Law School. Gerard passed the bar exam in 1983 represented members of the Haitian community and women leaving the Hasidic community who wanted to retain their parental rights, on a sliding scale service, sometimes even representing the client for free.