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Robert L. Brosio, retired federal prosecutor, dies at 77

Robert L. Brosio, a federal prosecutor who headed the U.S. attorney’s criminal division in Los Angeles for 28 years, has died in a Pasadena hospital. He was 77.

Brosio suffered a pulmonary embolism in February and died Friday, his daughter Serena Brosio said.

While Brosio seldom argued cases himself, he supervised a staff of more than 100 prosecutors and developed strategy for some of the biggest federal cases in the country, including the prosecution of savings and loan swindler Charles Keating Jr. and the civil rights cases against Los Angeles police officers who participated in the beating of Rodney King.

He was “nothing short of a legend” among federal prosecutors in Los Angeles and across the U.S, Andre Birotte Jr., U.S. attorney for the Central District of California, said in a statement.

Brosio rarely talked to reporters but once joked, in a relaxed moment, that while serving under a dozen U.S. attorneys he had signed more indictments “than anyone in the history of the republic.” He added: “I think my record has a better chance of standing than Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak, because people have a good reason to challenge his record.”

On another occasion, Brosio explained his lengthy career as a prosecutor this way: “You can always say you have the best client in the world. The only thing you have to think about on this job – it’s sort of a luxury for a lawyer job – is what is the right and just thing to do.”

When Brosio retired in 1994, Steven D. Clymer, then an assistant U.S. attorney, said: “He shaped the office. He made it what it is – as good a legal office as you will find in the country.”

The esteem in which Brosio was held by other lawyers is reflected in comments by John Potter, who served as a federal prosecutor under Brosio and is now a prominent San Francisco defense lawyer.

In an interview last year with Law360, a legal news service, Potter was asked to name a lawyer who had particularly impressed him, and he cited Brosio.

“Bob has a brilliant mind and a photographic memory,” he said. “He knew every case in the office down to the smallest detail.… Bob was demanding. He expected his prosecutors to work like dogs and to win every case. But Bob also expected — above all else — that prosecutors would win honorably while adhering to the highest ethical standards.

“Behind his desk, Bob kept a World War II poster of Churchill extending his index finger and exhorting, ‘Deserve victory.’ The point was not lost on any assistant who stepped foot in Bob’s office.”

While Brosio headed the U.S. attorney’s criminal division in L.A., his brother Fred Brosio was chief of the office’s civil division. Fred Brosio died in January.

Robert Brosio's wife, Anne, died in 2009. Besides his daughter, Serena, survivors include a son, Hilaire Brosio.

Instead of flowers, donations may be made to the Pasadena Humane Society or the Coleman Chamber Music Assn.

A complete obituary will follow at


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