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Convicted Politician Bertram Podell, 79

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Monday, August 22, 2005

Bertram L. Podell, 79, a New York Democrat who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1968 to 1975 and pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge stemming from his time in the House, died Aug. 17 at a hospital in New York. He had kidney failure.

A former New York state assemblyman, Rep. Podell won his House seat, which served south-central Brooklyn, in a special election. The previous congressman, Abraham J. Multer (D), became a judge.

In the House, Rep. Podell opposed Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon on their Vietnam War strategies. In 1974, he campaigned unsuccessfully for reelection amid corruption charges.

Stephen J. Solarz won the House seat and held it until 1993.

In October 1974, Rep. Podell pleaded guilty to conspiracy and conflict of interest for accepting $41,350 in fees and campaign contributions from a small Florida airline to obtain a Bahamas route.

Rep. Podell, who maintained a law practice while in the House, said he went before federal agencies for his legal client, the now-defunct Florida Atlantic Airlines.

The trial catapulted future New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani to front-page status when, as assistant U.S. attorney, he relentlessly cross-examined an initially calm Rep. Podell. The congressman reportedly grew more flustered and eventually decided to plead guilty.

Rep. Podell was fined $5,000, served four months in jail and was disbarred. Under a rules change, he was reinstated as a lawyer by the appellate division of the New York State Supreme Court in 1980. He returned to a real estate-law practice in New York.

Bertram Lawrence Podell was a Brooklyn native and a graduate of St. John's University and Brooklyn Law School. He was a Navy veteran of World War II.

Survivors include his wife of 52 years, Bernice Posen "Bunny" Podell of New York; three children; two brothers; and five grandchildren.

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