Robert C. Rudolph, a legendary Star-Ledger reporter who covered the federal courthouse and criminal justice issues, died on October 20. He was 75 and died after a brief illness.
Rudolph worked for the Star-Ledger from about 1969 until his retirement at the end of 2005 and is among the most consequential journalists in New Jersey history.
For decades, he dominated news coverage of organized crime in New Jersey and played a major role in building a circulation following the demise of the Newark Evening News in 1972 that made the Star-Ledger that state’s leading newspaper. The Star-Ledger’s ascent and decline closely mirrors the years Rudolph worked there.
Rudolph was on the front lines of reporting major stories in New Jersey for four decades, including federal political corruption and labor union prosecutions, high profile murder cases, boxing scandals, gang violence and white collar crime.
Retired Star-Ledger reporter Guy Sterling said Rudolph “was without peer on that beat.”
“I know because I worked with him for a considerable period of that time and saw that he had the respect of everyone he covered — prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges alike,” Sterling said.
Rudolph was the author of “The Boys from New Jersey: How the Mob Beat the Feds,” a 1995 account of the U.S. government’s prosecution of the Lucchese crime family for racketeering in 1988. He later sued director Sidney Lumet and actor Vin Diesel for stealing his story for their 2006 film, “Find Me Guilty.”
“He knew the federal courts,” said Bob Braun, another longtime colleague. “It was scary how much he knew.”
Among the stories that put Rudolph, then a new reporter in his early twenties, on the map was a 1971 report on how some bribes were tax deductible. His report led to a review of its polices by the Internal Revenue Service.
Rudolph lived in Flanders at the time of his death and had worked as a writer and conducting confidential conflict resolutions since his retirement as a reporter fifteen years ago.
Rudolph received a B.A. in English from Upsala College.