11/24/2010 Jill Colford Schoeniger ’86

Frank Granito III ’81

Attorney Frank H. Granito III '81 discovered last summer that the 20-year legal odyssey defining his career was not yet over.

  • granito

The journey began in 1988, when Granito and his firm, Speiser Krause, which specializes in aviation law, were tapped to represent families of the victims of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. All 259 people on board the plane bound for New York City from London and 11 on the ground died.

The journey seemed to end in 2008. Libya, after accepting responsibility for the terrorist attack, made the last in a series of compensation payments totaling $2.7 billion. It was the first time a nation had admitted its role in a terrorist attack and agreed to pay damages. Pan Am, meanwhile, paid $500 million.

"That's the most significant thing that I'll do professionally in my career," said Granito (pictured at right during one of his four trips to Libya). "We never thought we would be able to get Libya to come to the table to talk to us, let alone get them to accept responsibility and compensate the families."

In recognition of their work, the Public Justice Foundation bestowed Trial Lawyer of the Year awards on Granito and four other attorneys, including his father, Frank H. Granito Jr., also a partner at Speiser Krause.

But the ending has a controversial epilogue.

Last summer, the man serving a life sentence for his role in the bombing, Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, was released from a Scottish prison on humanitarian grounds. Al-Megrahi had been diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer and given three months to live. He is still alive, and the U.S. Congress is investigating the circumstances of his release.

Granito has been searching — so far with no results — for new grounds to pursue legal recourse. Victims' families are outraged, he said. "It's frustrating for us because of what the families had to go through."

His sympathy for the families has only deepened through the years. When Granito first began work on the case, he was a recent graduate of St. John's University School of Law and single. Today, he is a married father of five with a track record of giving back. He and Kenneth E. Pederson '81 have established a scholarship fund at F&M for students demonstrating financial need.

He has continued to represent families devastated by aviation disasters, including the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. "You can't help but get emotionally involved with the families," Granito said.

Legal victories don't lighten the emotional toll. "At the end of the day," Granito said, "You're still representing someone who lost a loved one."
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