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Greg Kelly turns to low-key lawyer

When the police commissioner's TV host son found himself facing a rape allegation, he turned to a lawyer with a reputation for handling high-profile cases with low-key know-how.

Andrew M. Lankler has represented people ranging from Bernard Madoff's auditor to the owner of a construction crane that collapsed and killed two people. But look Lankler up in news archives, and the words that often follow his name are "declined to comment" outside court.

Now Lankler is involved with the investigation that's been the talk of the city: a probe into whether Greg Kelly sexually assaulted a woman after they went out for drinks in October. And Lankler is choosing his words carefully, saying in the only statement he or anyone else has made on Kelly's behalf that the "Good Day New York" co-host and son of Police Commissioner Ray Kelly strenuously denies any wrongdoing and that the investigation will clear him. No arrests have been made.

The probe began after the woman went to police Tuesday.

Lankler brings a straightforward, un-showy savvy to the legal questions and publicity storm surrounding Kelly, colleagues say.

He's a "lawyer with impeccable judgment in a case that calls for good judgment," said Paul Shechtman, who has worked with Lankler on cases including the upcoming manslaughter trial of the crane owner and his company.

A founder of a firm that specializes in white-collar criminal defense, Lankler is a second-generation presence on the New York legal scene. His now-retired father, Roderick C. Lankler, was a special prosecutor investigating corruption in the city's criminal justice system in the 1970s and later worked under Robert Fiske, the original independent counsel for the Whitewater probe during the Clinton administration.

A graduate of The George Washington University and its law school, the younger Lankler spent six years in the 1990s working in the Manhattan district attorney's office, which is conducting the Kelly probe. Police quickly saw a potential conflict in investigating Ray Kelly's son.

Lankler "has a lot of credibility . . . and knows how to make decisions that are in his client's best interest" in dealings with the district attorney's office, said Isabelle A. Kirshner, a fellow criminal defense lawyer who has worked with him on some cases.

Lankler also served as the inspector general of the Battery Park City Authority -- which oversees a swath of lower Manhattan -- among other posts before helping launch Lankler Carragher Llp in 2002. He and his wife have two teenage sons.

Lankler has tackled a number of criminal cases arising from the construction industry, including a racketeering case against a powerful carpenters' union leader, who ultimately pleaded guilty.

Lankler's other clients have included longtime Madoff auditor David Friehling, who pleaded guilty to securities fraud, and former art gallery director Leigh Morse. She was convicted of selling works that belonged to four artists' estates without telling them, but was acquitted of a more serious grand larceny charge that specifically involved the estate of Robert De Niro Sr., the actor's artist father.

"His primary goal is protecting the client, not seeking publicity for himself," says defense lawyer Susan Hoffinger.

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