News & Politics

Power Players: "They’re Just People"

If your legal career is on the line, Peter Greenspun is the man to call

A Washington lawyer facing reputation-ruining allegations? Better call criminal defender Peter Greenspun.

The name partner at Virginia’s Greenspun Shapiro Davis & Leary is representing Joshua Gessler, a McLean attorney accused of paying for sex with a 15-year-old girl and photographing the act. Gessler had been an associate in the corporate-and-securities practice in the Tysons Corner office of Arnold & Porter, one of Washington’s most respected law firms. He was listed on the firm’s Web site until late August, when news of his arrest broke.

The matter must feel like déjà vu for Greenspun, who didn’t return requests for comment. More than a decade ago, he represented Andrew Lewis Singer—previously a lawyer at AOL’s Dulles headquarters—who was convicted of sexually molesting an 11-year-old boy. And in 2007 Greenspun defended Charles Rust-Tierney, a DC public defender and former president of the Virginia American Civil Liberties Union who got seven years in prison for buying child pornography. In both cases, Greenspun’s clients avoided the maximum sentences.

During his more than 30-year legal career, Greenspun has made his mark as one of the best defenders of murderers—including DC sniper John Muhammad—and others accused of heinous crimes.

“The people I’ve represented over the years are really just people,” Greenspun has said. “They’re people that walk their dogs. They’re people that you enjoy a conversation with.”

This article first appeared in the October 2010 issue of The Washingtonian.

Senior Editor

Marisa M. Kashino joined Washingtonian in 2009 as a staff writer, and became a senior editor in 2014. She oversees the magazine’s real estate and home design coverage, and writes long-form feature stories. She was a 2020 Livingston Award finalist for her two-part investigation into a wrongful conviction stemming from a murder in rural Virginia.