Pugnacious defense attorney Frank "Tony" Fabbri never backed away from a fight. Then the lawyer ran afoul of the law.

Fabbri supplies the same answer to both questions. He did it to spare Trober's family an investigation at the hands of law enforcement.

"I'm a co-dependent, but I'm a particular kind," Fabbri says. "Not only do I believe I need to help people, I believe I'm the only person that can help them. I have a messiah complex."

It's a rationale many who know Fabbri accept at face value. "I think Frank is much friendlier with his clients than a lot of us," explains fellow counselor Richard Fredman. "I don't think he's involved in anything nefarious. I just think he likes to talk to people and people to talk to him. And after a while you become an enabler. You start going the extra mile for the client. And it's all that effort that ends up in this."

"God love Tony," one ex-cop observes of Fabbri. "But he's a guy of excesses."
jennifer silverberg
"God love Tony," one ex-cop observes of Fabbri. "But he's a guy of excesses."
Friends, colleagues and adversaries wrote to U.S. District Court Judge William Stiehl on Fabbri's behalf. A PDF sampling of the letters is available online at here.
Friends, colleagues and adversaries wrote to U.S. District Court Judge William Stiehl on Fabbri's behalf. A PDF sampling of the letters is available online at here.

Those in Fabbri's intimate circle say he was "spellbound" – "bewitched" by a femme fatale less than half his age.

Fabbri says that on August 2 Belkis emptied his bank account, took his grandfather's pocket watch and drove off in his car.

He hasn't heard from his Cuban bride since. He filed for divorce August 14.

"I think this woman was a money grubber," Roger Rosen, a Los Angeles attorney and friend of twenty years, says of Fabbri's Cuban romance. "I think she was very into material things and kept pushing him and pushing him, and I think he was afraid of losing her, and that's why he made a terrible mistake of judgment. The money wasn't for him. Frank never cared about money."

Some would say he should have known better: A few years earlier Fabbri's brother, Terry, got engaged to a Cuban woman, who vanished moments after her plane touched down at the Miami airport.

"You can't bring any piece of Cuba back here – whether it's an artwork, an individual or a recipe – and think that it's going to be the same," observes close friend Mark Neill, a judge in St. Louis Circuit Court. "I think his friends told him that. But Frank is a giver. He's a caretaker. He needs to be needed."


A week after his sentencing, Fabbri is in the middle of a story as he awaits lunch at Nadoz, a café near his Lindell Boulevard office in midtown. The tale concerns a sassy bumper sticker he and Nick Zotos commissioned back in the day. "This Car Protected By Fabbri & Zotos," it read.

It wasn't intended as advertising, Fabbri explains. "It was a spoof of TV Guide lawyers," he says – those knucklehead attorneys who pitch their services like carpet and car salesmen.

"Goodperson, your order is ready!" the Nadoz clerk repeats.

At any rate, it backfired, Fabbri continues. "The cops started pulling people over because of it!" One guy, he recalls, had marijuana in his car and got five years in jail.

A server appears at Fabbri's side with a tray of food. "Goodperson?" the young woman murmurs.

"Well, well," the attorney replies. "At last!"

"You go to Bread Co., you hear 'Goodperson' – that's me," says Fabbri. "You go to Nadoz, you hear 'Goodperson' – that's me. That way if I have bad day, at least somebody called me a good person."

Fabbri has a quick mind – "You really had to be on your toes to keep up with him," says St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Mike Calvin – and frequently expounds on a topic without being asked.

"When you start out as a public defender and you have to wash your pants every third day because you smell so bad because you're standing all day, every day, next to these people who've been held in jail for a week, and they stink, their breath stinks – oh, the halitosis! – it's just horrifying, and you're watching one after another after another get sent to jail, well, after a while you develop a strange sense of humor," says Fabbri. "Cynicism. Futile cynicism."

He pauses, then adds, "There's mean crimes and there's dumb crimes. Good people can do dumb things."

That's the very thought Fabbri's friends fixated on in the aftermath of his sentencing. "I know it's controversial to feel sad about someone who is convicted," notes St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Jack Garvey, "but he really is a good person. And though it takes a while to find that out about Frank, it's also part of his charm."

There was the time Fabbri dropped everything and drove to Florida to spend weeks closing up the practice of a former St. Louis prosecutor who died in a car accident. The marriage he helped to save by setting straight a friend with an alcohol problem. The children neglected by another alcohol-addicted colleague, whom he all but adopted.

"When heart disease set upon me," one local lawyer wrote in his plea to Judge Stiehl for leniency in Fabbri's case, "Frank was the first to come forward and run my office and practice while I recovered. A deed my own partners at the time did little to help facilitate."

Then there's the plaque Fabbri commissioned for the St. Louis Police Department, in memory of an officer who died in a helicopter crash.

« Previous Page
Next Page »