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Home: John’s Island
Profession: Attorney and partner in Savage & Savage, P.A. Also, a former South Carolina state prosecutor and chief of criminal division for S.C. Attorney General
Passions: “Family, animals, promoting cultural understanding, and underdogs”
Find Andy: savlaw.com and c2savagereport.com
Many people recognize the name Andy Savage. The high-profile downtown attorney has spent his fair share of time in the media spotlight, defending some pretty famous, and infamous, clients (such as fallen financier Al Parish), hosting an Emmy-winning local cable TV show (The Savage Report), and most recently taking on the Charleston Police and the County Sheriff’s Office over unlawfully seized evidence in the Kate Waring disappearance/murder investigation. But few may realize what motivates this former New York City cab driver.
Savage says it’s not about the money, though plenty flows into his firm. Nor, he says, is it about the publicity; he brushes off the idea of writing a book and seems bewildered at the idea. When asked what pushes him to work as hard in his 60s as he did in his 30s, Savage talks about clients—like the one consuming untold unbillable hours and leading him on a quest from Washington, D.C., to Saudi Arabia and beyond.
Summation: Savage believes the government’s claims against Ali al-Marri are exaggerated and most are unsupported by evidence. A presumed Al Qaeda sleeper agent, the Saudi national was arrested in 2001 and spent more than five and a half years in the Naval Consolidated Brig, including many months in extreme isolation—with no sunlight, human interaction, warm food, bedding, or clothing other than his underwear. “We hear about the abuses in Abu Ghraib,” says Savage. “But this extraordinary punishment was happening a good baseball’s throw from the most genteel city in America.”
Born in New York and schooled by the Jesuits at Fordham University, Savage spent time driving a taxi in the city. That job was a window on real people with real problems. (“It’s amazing what passengers will tell a cabbie,” he smiles.) After graduating law school at the University of South Carolina, he spent years prosecuting cases statewide for the Attorney General’s office. “Back then, I was a novelty—a kid from New York trying cases with a Yankee accent.” Then he adds: “I also got the cases nobody else wanted.” It gave him a chance to specialize in emerging categories, like white-collar crime. Eventually, several cases brought him to Charleston, and he stayed.
“I really believe—truly, absolutely, and unequivocally—in the rule of law. We all must operate from the same rule book, and only then will the truth win out,” Savage says. “Philosophically, I’d just as happily go back to being a prosecutor tomorrow,” he continues. “It’s all about the law.”
For now, he’s sticking with defense. And there’s no shortage of customers. Savage’s phone rings constantly, and he won’t ignore it. Notes his wife Cheryl, a constant presence in his work and life: “How could he not answer? I mean, it’s what he does. Period.”
Photograph courtesy of the Associated Press