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Patrick Kevin Brosnahan, former candidate for Suffolk district attorney

Patrick Kevin Brosnahan is seen at his office

Patrick Kevin Brosnahan is seen at his office in Babylon on Aug. 2, 2010. Credit: James Carbone

Patrick Kevin Brosnahan, a combative and colorful party elections lawyer and one-time Democratic candidate for Suffolk County district attorney, was found dead Monday in his Babylon Village law office. He was 65.

Brosnahan, of West Islip, had a heart operation about six months ago but never slowed down, friends recalled. Less than two weeks ago, he was at the finish line for the Triple Crown win of American Pharoah at the Belmont Stakes. Last month, he ran the Babylon Town Democratic convention as parliamentarian.

"Kevin was definitely one you wanted to have on your side," said Richard Schaffer, Suffolk Democratic chairman. "He was a Democrat long before it was popular and he wore every emotion on his sleeve. There was never a question where Kevin stood."

But Brosnahan could exasperate friends and foes.

"He could drive everyone out their minds, but he fought tooth and nail in every case he had," said Frank MacKay, state and Suffolk Independence Party chairman, who was with Brosnahan at Belmont.

The high point of Brosnahan's political career was his 1993 run for district attorney against equally combative Republican incumbent James M. Catterson Jr., after years of seeking Democratic Party backing for the run. He attacked Catterson for failing to uncover a scandal involving Brookhaven developer-car dealer John McNamara and driving a BMW acquired through asset forfeiture. But Brosnahan lost by a wide margin.

Brosnahan played a pivotal, if indirect, role in the 2001 Suffolk DA's race, successfully battling efforts to knock attorney Richard Thompson off the Conservative primary ballot. Thompson won the primary, denying Catterson the Conservative line, helping to elect Democrat Thomas Spota.

Colleagues also recalled Brosnahan's courtroom flamboyance.

Once after the prosecution had rested in a case, Brosnahan rummaged through his papers, in his bag and under the table, until the judge asked what he was looking for.

"I am looking for the peoples' case and I can't see it," Brosnahan replied, resting his case. His client was found not guilty.

Brosnahan once won a speeding case by bringing his client's identical twin brother and asking the deputy sheriff which was guilty of speeding. When the deputy could not identify the culprit, the hearing officer dismissed the ticket.

"If I was arrested standing over a dead body with a smoking gun in my hand, I would call Kevin as my attorney," said Richard Finn, Suffolk's Stop DWI coordinator, whose brother had gotten the ticket.

A baseball fan, Brosnahan was once part of an effort to bring the Montreal Expos to Long Island. He also represented a former chauffeur of John Lennon's widow Yoko Ono, who was accused of trying to extort $2 million from her.Brosnahan grew up in Lindenhurst and graduated from Syracuse University College of Law. He entered politics in 1968 as a backer of anti-war Democratic Sen. Eugene McCarthy for president.

While a loyal Democrat, Brosnahan sometimes crossed his own party. He represented town garbage carters against Schaffer's Democratic town administration. He also represented high-profile bar owner Robert Matherson, late owner of the Oak Beach Inn, against town parking and zoning rules.

However, he also served as special counsel for Babylon village, helping officials rein in the night club John Anthony's, which had drawn residents' complaints. Brosnahan had also served as village attorney for Ocean Beach and associate police justice in Lindenhurst. He ran unsuccessfully for Babylon Town board in 1974.

Even some Republicans spoke warmly of Brosnahan's role as a mentor. "Today we lost a great statesman," said John C. Cochrane Jr., Islip GOP town board member. "He was a true legend in Long Island politics."Twice married and divorced, friends said Brosnahan had no immediate family.

Funeral arrangements had not been set as of Monday.

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