Seattle defense lawyer Tony Savage dead at 81

SEATTLE — Criminal defense lawyer Anthony “Tony” Savage died Tuesday at the age of 81.

He had terminal cancer, but he could be found at his office every day until last week, his family and a law partner told The Seattle Times.

Early in his career, Savage worked as a King County deputy prosecutor. He went into private practice after six years and became known as a death penalty opponent.

Savage was one of the lawyers for Gary Ridgway who was convicted in the Green River serial killings. He also represented David Lewis Rice who was convicted of killing attorney Charles Goldmark and three members of his family in 1985. Savage also represented Charles Campbell who was executed in 1994 for killing two women and a girl.

In addition to his trial work, Savage was a mentor to defense lawyers, The Seattle Times reported Wednesday.

“He was just a 100 percent all-around guy. He never said an unkind word about anybody,” said Senior U.S. District Court Judge Carolyn Dimmick. In the course of friendship of more than 50 years, Dimmick said, the only skeptical thing she ever heard Mr. Savage say about anyone was about Charles Campbell.

“He said, ‘That was the only man who I looked in those eyes, and I didn’t feel a thing for,’ “she recalled. “He felt sympathy for every other defendant he had.”

The son of a Seattle lawyer, Savage earned his law degree from the University of Washington and first handled civil cases before joining the prosecutor’s office in 1956. He became the right-hand man to chief criminal deputy prosecutor Joel Rindal, now a retired King County District Court judge.

Though he was very good, prosecutorial work was tough for Savage because he had to push for the death penalty in several cases, Rindal said.

Judge Dimmick, who also was a deputy prosecutor at the time, said Savage was never bombastic.

“We used to call him the big Boy Scout because he was so low-key in prosecuting people,” she said.

In criminal defense work, Savage often defended indigent clients, said longtime friend and former partner Jim Kempton.

“He was unable to ask anyone for money; all of his clients were broke. I used to say that if a defendant didn’t have the $25 filing fee for the Public Defender’s Office, they sent them to Tony Savage,” Kempton recalled.

Savage spent some time on the other side of the jail-cell door when he was sentenced to a month for not paying his taxes. Judge Dimmick said she and other friends tried to get him to pay his taxes, and he promised to get around to it eventually.

“Tony was a great procrastinator, as most lawyers are,” Kempton said.

Savage was preceded in death by his wife. He is survived by a sister, Margaret Savage, of Shaw Island, and a sister-in-law, Margaret Vance Savage, of Edmonds.

At his request, no services are planned.

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