David Trager. the federal judge who presided over the successful prosecution of two men charged with violating the civil rights of Yankel Rosenbaum in the 1991 Crown Heights riots has died.
Trager was 73 and died of pancreatic cancer, The New York Times reported. Trager was United States attorney for the Eastern District from 1974 to 1978 and a former professor and dean at Brooklyn Law School.
It was Trager’s attempt to create a racially balanced jury in the trial of Lemrick Nelson Jr. and Charles Price in 1997 that led an Appeals Court to void their conviction five years later on grounds that race should never have been considered. Nelson had been acquitted of murder in a 1992 state trial. He was convicted in a third trial in 2002 after admitting that he stabbed Rosenbaum, an Australian scholar, during a night of rioting that followed the accidental death of a black child in the racially mixed neighborhood. Nelson’s lawyers argued that his motivation was not racial. Price later entered a guilty plea. Nelson was released from prison in June, 2004, after being sentenced to 10 years, most of which he had already served.
The Times noted that Trager was born in Mount Vernon in Westchester County, the son of Austrian immigrants and earned his bachelor’s degree from Columbia University and his law degree from Harvard University. He was appointed to the federal bench by President Bill Clinton in 1993.
He is survived by a son, Josiah, daughters Naomi and Mara and his wife, Roberta Weisbrod.