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|Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York|
June 30, 1972 – November 23, 1987
|Nominated by||Richard Nixon|
|Preceded by||Walter R. Mansfield|
|Succeeded by||Robert P. Patterson Jr.|
|Born||February 24, 1909|
|Died||June 14, 2004
New York, New York, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Ann Fallert Knapp|
|Alma mater||Yale University|
Percy Whitman Knapp (February 24, 1909 – June 14, 2004) was a federal judge who led a far-reaching investigation into corruption in the New York City Police Department from 1970 to 1972.
Childhood and education
Whitman Knapp was the son of Wallace Percy Knapp, a wealthy German American lawyer in New York. His mother was killed in a horse riding accident in Central Park when he was only three years old. He attended The Browning School, graduating in 1927, The Choate School (now Choate Rosemary Hall), graduating in 1927, and Yale University, graduating in 1931. He went on to Harvard Law School, where he was editor of the Harvard Law Review, graduating in 1934. He married Elizabeth Mercer shortly after graduation.
After his graduation from law school, he started working with the law firm of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft in Manhattan. He remained there until 1938, when he left to become an Assistant District Attorney in Manhattan under the newly elected racket-busting District Attorney Thomas E. Dewey.
In 1941, Knapp returned to private life and joined the law firm of Donovan, Leisure, Newton & Lumbard. Within a year Frank S. Hogan, Manhattan's new District Attorney, persuaded him to return to the fold. At one point Mr. Knapp was chief of three bureaus: appeals, indictments, and fraud.
In 1950, Knapp left Mr. Hogan's office to again enter private practice. In the next few years he served as a special counsel to Mr. Dewey, who had become governor of New York State, and was a member of the commission that revised the state's criminal code.
Knapp served during 1953–1954 as special counsel to the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor, which looked into corruption on the waterfront.
In 1970, Mayor John V. Lindsay appointed Knapp to head a five-member commission investigating corruption in the New York City Police Department later known as the Knapp Commission. The probe was sparked by revelations from two police officers, Patrolman Frank Serpico, and Sergeant David Durk.
Looking back on the work of the Knapp Commission, Knapp said that the relatively few convictions did not matter as much as his work did, for he felt his work had changed the culture of the police so that they took the charge of corruption in their midst more seriously.
As the Knapp Commission was ending its investigation and was preparing to issue a report, President Richard M. Nixon nominated Knapp as a Judge of the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York. Knapp was quickly confirmed and was seated on the bench on June 30, 1972.
- In 1986, Judge Knapp presided over the racketeering case against Bronx County Democratic leader Stanley M. Friedman.
- On November 23, 1987, Judge Knapp took senior status.
- In 1993, Judge Knapp joined with Judge Jack B. Weinstein of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, based in Brooklyn, New York, in declaring that they would no longer preside over drug trials.
In 2004, Judge Knapp died at the age of 95 at the Cabrini Hospice in Manhattan. He served on the bench up until his death. He was survived by his third wife, Ann Fallert Knapp, a son, Gregory Wallace Knapp, and by three children from his first wife, Elizabeth Mercer Nason; a son, Whitman E. Knapp, and two daughters, Caroline Hines and Marion Knapp; five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
- Thomas E. Dewey
- Frank S. Hogan
- John V. Lindsay
- Knapp Commission
- Mollen Commission
- Police corruption
- Police misconduct
- Frank Serpico
- United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
- United States federal judge
- Severo, Richard (June 15, 2004). "Whitman Knapp, 95, Dies. Exposed Police Corruption". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-06-18.
Whitman Knapp, a federal judge with a prosecutor's tenacity and a Wall Street pedigree who led New York City through a tumultuous two-year investigation into widespread police corruption in the early 1970s, died yesterday at Cabrini Hospice in Manhattan. He was 95 and lived in Manhattan.
- HER HORSE KILLS HER IN CENTRAL PARK; Falls on Mrs. Knapp, Crushing Her Chest, While She Is Riding with Daughter – New York Times article: May 22, 1912
- YALE ALUMNI HOLD COLORFUL REUNIONS; HONORED MEMBERS OF YALE'S GRADUATING CLASS – New York Times article: June 16, 1931
- MISS MERCER PICKS BRIDAL ATTENDANTS; Brookline, Mass., Girl to Be Wed to Percy Whitman Knapp in Maine on Saturday – New York Times article: June 27, 1934
- DEWEY APPOINTS 14; AVERAGE AGE IS 32; Eleven Republicans, Two of Labor Party and Democrat Named as Assistants – New York Times article: December 29, 1937
- MRS. MARROW WED TO WHITMAN KNAPP – New York Times article: November 4, 1956
- MRS. KNAPP WED TO JOHN W. NASON; Former Elizabeth Mercer and Ex-Swarthmore Head Marry at Keene Valley – New York Times article: June 30, 1957
- Graft Paid to Police Here Said to Run Into Millions; Survey Links Payoffs to Gambling and Narcotics Some on Force Accuse Officials of Failure to Act Graft Payments to Policemen Here Are Reported to Run Into the Millions Annually Some Members of Force Say Officials Fail to Act – New York Times article: April 25, 1970
- Mayor's Committee Investigating Police Corruption Here Meets Tomorrow to Determine Procedures – New York Times article: April 26, 1970
- PANEL ON POLICE MAY BE REPLACED; Mayor Is Expected to Name a Larger Unit on Graft That Excludes Leary – New York Times article: May 9, 1970
- LINDSAY APPOINTS CORRUPTION UNIT; Subpoena Power Asked for 2d Panel to Study Police – New York Times article: May 22, 1970
- Graft-Inquiry Head; Percy Whitman Knapp – New York Times article: May 23, 1970
- KNAPP SAYS LAWS SPUR POLICE GRAFT; Lindsay Appointee Explains Objectives of Inquiry – New York Times article: June 7, 1970
- 41 Policemen Are Subpoenaed By Knapp Unit in Betting Inquiry- New York Times article: February 17, 1971
- PERJURY LAID TO 2 IN POLICE INQUIRY; Patrolmen in Meat Incident Are First to Be Accused in Knapp Investigation Perjury Charged to 2 Policemen In Knapp Inquiry on Corruption – New York Times article: June 9, 1971
- Knapp Says Mayor Shares Blame for Corrupt Police; Knapp Faults Lindsay On Corruption of Police – New York Times article: July 2, 1971
- KNAPP UNIT TELLS OF POLICE BRIBERY AS HEARINGS OPEN; Reports 'Extensive' Problem in Corruption Here--Tape Evidence Is Presented DETAILS OF VICE GRAFT 2 Patrolmen and a Lawyer Linked to Payoffs to Help an East Side Madam Knapp Panel Tells of Police Bribery as Hearings Begin Here – New York Times article: October 19, 1971
- Patrolman Says 'All But 2' Of Colleagues Got Bribes; Numbers Runner Tells the Knapp Panel That He Paid Off a Detective Monthly With Money From Social Security Patrolman Says 'All But 2' Colleagues Took Bribes – New York Times article: October 23, 1971
- KNAPP UNIT'S HEAD DEFENDS LEGALITY OF INVESTIGATION; Public Attention Is Essential in Combating Corruption, Lawyer Tells Critics HOGAN BACKS HEARINGS But Roberts Scores Actions -- Police Bid Businessmen End Giving of Gratuities Knapp Commission Chairman Defends Legality of Investigation – New York Times article: October 24, 1971
- Knapp Urges a Permanent Body on Police Corruption to Succeed His Panel – New York Times article: October 25, 1971
- Knapp Witness to Tell of Lindsay Officials' Apathy; Witness Will Tell Knapp Panel Lindsay Officials Ignored Graft – New York Times article: October 30, 1971
- Leary Agrees to Be Knapp Witness – New York Times article: December 14, 1971
- Serpico's Lonely Journey to Knapp Witness Stand – New York Times article: December 15, 1971
- The Knapp Commission Didn't Know It Couldn't Be Done; The Knapp Commission – New York Times article: January 9, 1972
- Phillips, a Knapp Witness, Indicted in Two Murders; Phillips, Knapp Witness, Is Indicted – New York Times article: March 21, 1972
- KNAPP NOMINATED AS FEDERAL JUDGE; Head of Police Inquiry Unit One of Four Named Here – New York Times article: June 16, 1972
- Knapp Panel's Recommendation a Touchy Problem for Mayor and Governor – New York Times article: August 27, 1972
- KNAPP PANEL SAYS WALSH AND OTHERS IGNORED TIPS BY U.S. ON POLICE CRIMES; KRIEGEL IS SCORED – New York Times article: December 28, 1972
- 'SORT OF AN OLD GUY,' DEFINITIVELY A JUDGE; TURNING 90 DOES NOTHING TO TEMPER OPINIONS ISSUED BY WHITMAN KNAPP – New York TImes article: February 24, 1999
- Hon. John F. Keenan, A MAN FOR ALL DECADES, Fordham Urban Law Journal, Vol. 26, pp. 1407–1410 (May 1999).
- Percy Whitman Knapp at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.
Walter R. Mansfield
|Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
Robert P. Patterson, Jr.