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Allan Haber spent 10 years in maximum security prisons before turning life around

  • Allan Haber, now 75, spent over a decade in maximum-security prisons
  • He was convicted of three drug-related felonies, as well as other crimes
  • But now, he is thriving in unlikely career - as a criminal defense lawyer
  • Mr Haber runs own law firm and has represented offenders for 30 years
  • He has largely kept past a secret, but is now working on film of his life
  • Officials say his transformation shows 'the human capacity for growth'

By Sophie Jane Evans for MailOnline

Published: 06:15 EST, 13 October 2015 | Updated: 08:32 EST, 13 October 2015

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Criminal-turned-lawyer: Allan Haber, 75, is thriving in an unlikely career - as a criminal defense lawyer

Criminal-turned-lawyer: Allan Haber, 75, is thriving in an unlikely career - as a criminal defense lawyer

He spent more than a decade in maximum security prisons for mostly drug-related crimes.

But now, Allan Haber is free and thriving in an unlikely career - as a criminal defense lawyer.

The 75-year-old, who made thousands of dollars a day selling heroin during his time as a gun-wielding drug dealer, has represented seasoned offenders in New York for three decades.

While he has largely kept his stained past a secret, he has recently become less private, agreeing to collaborate on a film about his life and telling clients about his convictions.

And the former heroin addict - who initially worked as a public defender before opening his own private firm, the Law Office of Allan P. Haber - has received predominantly positive responses from those he has represented.

'It made me feel like I could trust you,' one former gang member, who is jailed, wrote to Mr Haber in response to an email sent at the request of The New York Times. 'I felt like you would fight for me even harder because you understood what it felt like to be in my position.'

Mr Haber started working as a criminal defense lawyer in his 40s - two decades after he made a fortune selling large amounts of heroin through distributors in Midtown Manhattan.

To enter the challenging world of law, he was required to reveal the truth about his past in an application to New York University, including his three drug-related felonies in his 20s and 30s.

He was admitted to the university because his offenses, although serious, were not 'violent' in nature, Stephen Gillers, then-chairman of the admissions committee, told the Times.

He had also undertaken college courses while behind bars at various institutions.

After being accepted to the university, Mr Haber gained a law degree and was admitted to the bar.

He began working as a public defender - and his career quickly took off.

But despite his success, Mr Haber was wary about disclosing his past to judges and prosecutors, many of whom were impressed by how he would argue his clients' cases in the courtroom.

'I mean, I’m a three-time loser,' said Mr Haber, who was also a Charles H. Revson Fellow at Colombia University, according to his LinkedIn page. 'Who’s going to say that they can trust me?'

Law firm: The 75-year-old convicted felon, who opened the Law Office of Allan P. Haber at 111 Broadway (pictured) in Manhattan, New York, has represented seasoned offenders in the city for three decades

Law firm: The 75-year-old convicted felon, who opened the Law Office of Allan P. Haber at 111 Broadway (pictured) in Manhattan, New York, has represented seasoned offenders in the city for three decades

He added that his life 'was just a revolving door, in and out of jail'. 

However, Mr Haber recently decided to speak out about his history - which saw him serve stints at Rikers Island and Sing Sing prisons - to make his clients see they can change their lives around. 

Indeed, the lawyer - who also previously committed burglary, theft and petty larceny - is seen by many to be a prime example of how someone can make something of themselves after prison.

It should inspire us to reflect on the power of mercy and the human capacity for growth
John Sexton, NYU president

John Sexton, the president of New York University, said that Mr Haber's transformation - which saw him eventually open his own law office at 111 Broadway, Manhattan, in 1993 - was inspirational.

He told the Times it exemplified the 'power of mercy and the human capacity for growth'.

Meanwhile, judges spoke of their shock at Mr Haber's past - and said he did 'great' work. 

Mr Haber, who represents people who have committed crimes ranging from fraud to violent offenses like murder and robbery, makes his clients tell him the truth about their charges.

He told the Times that this helps him to negotiate with prosecutors and judges.

'My feeling is that I need to know more than the enemy [prosecutors],' he said.

University: To enter the challenging world of law, Mr Haber was required to reveal the truth about his past in an application to New York University (file picture), including his three drug-related felonies in his 20s and 30s

University: To enter the challenging world of law, Mr Haber was required to reveal the truth about his past in an application to New York University (file picture), including his three drug-related felonies in his 20s and 30s

The laywer lives in the city with his wife, oncologist Maria Theodoulou.

He has a daughter with his former wife, lawyer Emily Goodman. 

An online description of the film about his life, titled Hard Promises, reads: 'Hard Promises is based on the true-life story of Allan Haber, a man who overcame abandonment, a life of crime and drugs with New York's famed organized crime families, 15 years in prison, and finally the system that betrayed him to become the only felon ever to serve as a capital crimes lawyer in the U.S..'

In 2013, the film's screen play won an award at California's Los Angeles Reel Film Festival.

New York state does not ban convicted felons from being admitted to the bar.

MailOnline has reached out to Mr Haber about his transformation. 

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