New York Magazine


Sol's Two Lives

When: November 5, 1992

The facts: FBI agents bust Sol Wachtler — charming, ambitious, chief judge of the New York State Court of Appeals — for harassing Republican fundraiser and ex-lover Joy Silverman. Wachtler, who was the administrator of a $3 million trust left to Silverman by her father, stalked Silverman while dressed as a cowboy and sent bizarre and threatening letters to the woman and her daughter, later claiming that a prescription drug cocktail and manic depression made him do it. He serves 11 months in two prisons and is stabbed while in a mental health facility.

The judge: Wachtler wasn't simply New York's top judicial figure. He led the nation's most important state appeals court... He was also the powerful administrator of the state's judicial branch... All of that was impressive, but what made Wachtler truly beloved was his extraordinary human qualities. He was a mensch, not another old lizard in a black robe. He wasn't boring. He'd always been handsome—with deep-set, startingly blue eyes—but he became better-looking as he aged... He was the only Republican in New York who could approach Cuomo's eloquence."—from "Crazy for You" in the December 14, 1992 issue of New York Magazine.

The relationship: She'd known him since she was just out of her teens... he'd helped her change from a shy heiress to master fundraiser—and she'd talked him up to all her Bush-adminstration friends as a great choice for the Supreme Court. He'd guided her through the world of New York Republicans and helped her survive being hung out to dry over the failed ambassadorial nomination. They'd become lovers, but he wouldn't leave his wife, and eventually Silverman ended it. He'd taken it badly, but surely he wasn't capable of this.—from "Crazy for You" in the December 14, 1992 issue of New York Magazine

The book: After the Madness: A Judge's Own Prison Memoir by Sol Wachtler

More scandal : Ten years later, Joy Silverman's ex-husband, to whom she was married at the time of the scandal, would commit suicide in a particularly gruesome way.