Norman Charles Roettger Jr., a senior U.S. District Court judge who sent dozens of mobsters to prison, died on July 26 from a heart attack. He was 72.
Roettger graduated from Ohio State University in 1952, then enlisted for a three-year stint in the Navy. While he was stationed in Key West, he developed an appreciation for the eccentric people who lived in South Florida. After he received his law degree from Washington & Lee University in 1958, Roettger moved to Fort Lauderdale and joined the law firm of Fleming, O’Brien & Fleming.
Roettger also made connections with local Republicans. The networking paid off in 1969 when he was tapped to serve as the deputy counsel for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in Washington D.C. Three years later, President Richard Nixon nominated Roettger to the federal bench.
Roettger returned to South Florida to establish a full-time federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale and to tackle tough drug and organized crime cases. He presided over the murder conspiracy trial of religious cult leader Yahweh Ben Yahweh, and received death threats for his sentencing of Mafiosos.
Roettger served as chief judge from 1991 to 1997. Despite the fact that he had technically retired, Roettger continued to travel the district and work as a senior judge. Last year, Roettger made news when he overturned the murder conviction of William H. Kelley, a man who had been on Death Row since 1984 for killing Florida millionaire Charles Von Maxcy.