Robert Cooley Bob Cooley was born, in 1943, into to a big, loving family on Chicago’s South Side. His father was a policeman as were both of his grandfathers, and both also died in the line of duty. Cooley first worked as a policeman himself to earn his way through college and law school before he became an attorney, specializing in criminal defense. He quickly became known as a lawyer who would do whatever it took to get his clients an acquittal. In fact, he used legitimate means to win almost all of his jury trials, but he was also ready to bribe judges and court officials in the corrupt Cook County court system. His success in criminal law brought great wealth (at one time he owned a health club and part of a popular restaurant) and access to the highest levels of the Chicago Mafia, known as the Outfit. His love for gambling, his carefree attitude and fearlessness also brought him social as well as professional contacts with the Mob street crews. He shared their nightlife in the city’s hottest bars and played cards in their private clubs. His ability to fix the 1977 trial of a notorious Hit Man gained him entry to the Inner Circle of the First Ward, a group of Democratic Party officials, elected politicians and mobsters who controlled Chicago’s city government and court system. But in 1986, in an act of conscience, Cooley approached the U.S. Justice Department’s Organized Crime Strike Force and offered to expose the ties between the Outfit and public corruption in Chicago. His investigation, known as Operation Gambat (for Gambling Attorney), ultimately sent 24 men to prison and led to significant political and judicial reforms. Cooley has never been part of the Witness Protection Program or profited from his ties to the government. He now lives under an assumed name in permanent exile from the city he loves.
Hillel Levin has been a staff writer and investigative reporter for several publications, including The Nation, New York magazine, Monthly Detroit and Metropolitan Detroit. He has won both national and regional awards for his reporting. He was executive editor for Metropolitan Detroit and editor for Chicago magazine. He is also the author of Grand Delusions:The Cosmic Career of John Z. DeLorean (Viking, 1984). He currently lives with his family in the Chicago area.
From 1986 to 1989, criminal defense attorney Robert Cooley wore a recording device and developed criminal cases against mobsters and corrupt officials. His investigation led to nine federal trials in the Nineties and convictions or guilty pleas for twenty-four.
“Bob is every bit the hero because he didn’t have to
do what he did.”
Tom Durkin, former First
Assistant U.S. Attorney
“The man is a paragon of corruption. The man is
Criminal Defense Attorney
Edward M. Genson
Never has a federal investigation accomplished
so much, and never has an investigation revolved as
much around one man. But
to this day, the reasons why Cooley decided to cooperate with federal authorities remain a mystery.