Image: Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau
Louis Lanzano  /  AP
Robert Morgenthau, 89, has been a prosecutor in New York City since the Kennedy administration.
updated 2/27/2009 3:14:16 PM ET 2009-02-27T20:14:16

Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau has decided not to run for re-election, marking the end of a long era for a prosecutor who has locked up murderous mobsters, corrupt CEOs and thousands of other criminals for five decades.

A high-ranking person in Morgenthau's office who is familiar with the decision says the prosecutor will announce his plans Friday afternoon. The individual spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision had not been announced.

Morgenthau, 89, scheduled an announcement Friday but did not elaborate on its subject.

He has been a prosecutor in New York City since the Kennedy administration, when he was appointed Manhattan's top federal prosecutor. In 1974, he became the New York state prosecutor in the Manhattan borough, leading the busiest and most prominent district attorney's office in the nation.

"We owe much of our city's low crime rate and safe streets to his years of great service. He will be sorely missed," said City Council member Peter F. Vallone Jr., a former assistant to Morgenthau.

In 2005, at age 86, Morgenthau was elected for the eighth time, turning back a challenge from Leslie Crocker Snyder, a popular former state judge who tried without success to turn his age and lengthy tenure into campaign issues.

Crocker Snyder is seen as a favorite to win the post in the November election.

Morgenthau cultivated a dignified, above-the-fray presence and was widely acknowledged by allies and foes alike as effective, nonpartisan and incorruptible.

Model character for 'Law & Order'
From that emerged a reputation that extended beyond the Lower Manhattan courthouse. He was the model for the avuncular character of prosecutor Adam Schiff, played by actor Steven Hill on the long-running television series, "Law & Order."

He hails from a wealthy, prominent New York family. His paternal grandfather was U.S. ambassador to Turkey during World War I, and his father was treasury secretary under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a family friend.

Morgenthau had a lifelong friendship with members of the Kennedy clan. He campaigned for John F. Kennedy in the 1960 presidential race. The next year, the new president named him U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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