A Three-Decade Journey in Criminal Justice – Career Gear (2024)

Karen Friedman Agnifilo is a prominent criminal defense attorney, a former prosecutor, and a legal advocate. She has a remarkable career that spans over three decades, during which she has handled complex and high-profile cases, reformed the criminal justice system, and advocated for positive change. This article will provide an overview of her personal and professional life, as well as her achievements and contributions to the field of criminal justice.

Early Life and Education

Karen Friedman Agnifilo was born in New York City and grew up in Queens. She attended Stuyvesant High School, a prestigious public school for gifted students. She then graduated from Cornell University with a bachelor’s degree in government and history. She went on to earn her law degree from New York University School of Law, where she was a Root-Tilden Scholar and a member of the Law Review.

Career as a Prosecutor

Karen Friedman Agnifilo began her career as a prosecutor in 1990, when she joined the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office as an Assistant District Attorney. She worked in various bureaus, including the Trial Division, the Sex Crimes Unit, and the Homicide Investigation Unit. She also served as a Deputy Chief of the Trial Division and a Chief of the Sex Crimes Unit. She gained a reputation for being a skilled and compassionate prosecutor, who handled some of the most challenging and sensitive cases, such as sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse, and murder.

In 2004, she left the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York as an Assistant U.S. Attorney. There, she worked in the Criminal Division, focusing on white-collar crimes, such as securities fraud, money laundering, and tax evasion. She also served as a Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division and a Chief of the General Crimes Unit.

In 2010, she returned to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office as an Executive Assistant District Attorney and the Chief of the Trial Division. She was appointed by Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the newly elected District Attorney, who entrusted her with the responsibility of overseeing all the trial-related matters in the office. She supervised approximately 500 lawyers and 700 support staff, who handled more than 80,000 cases each year.

In 2014, she was promoted to Chief Assistant District Attorney, the second-highest position in the office. She became the Acting District Attorney whenever Vance was unavailable, and she managed all aspects of personnel and hiring, including handling EEOC claims. She also oversaw a budget of $120 million and restructured the office to improve efficiency and effectiveness.

Career as a Criminal Defense Attorney

In 2021, Karen Friedman Agnifilo left the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and started her own private practice, specializing in criminal defense in both state and federal courts. She joined Geragos Global, a law firm founded by Mark Geragos, a renowned criminal defense attorney who has represented celebrities such as Michael Jackson, Winona Ryder, and Scott Peterson. She also became a partner at Agnifilo Law Group, a law firm run by her husband, Marc Agnifilo, who is also a prominent criminal defense attorney.

As a criminal defense attorney, Karen Friedman Agnifilo provides a wide range of legal services, from handling accusations to conducting investigations, and from arrests to full-fledged trials. She represents clients who are facing various criminal charges, such as drug offenses, violent crimes, sex crimes, white-collar crimes, and cybercrimes. She also advises clients on how to deal with the media, the public, and the authorities. She leverages her extensive experience and expertise as a former prosecutor to provide effective and aggressive defense strategies for her clients.

Achievements and Contributions

Karen Friedman Agnifilo has received numerous awards and recognitions for her achievements and contributions to the field of criminal justice. Some of them are:

  • The New York Law Journal’s Distinguished Leader Award (2020)
  • The New York County Lawyers Association’s Public Service Award (2019)
  • The New York Women’s Bar Association’s President’s Special Award (2018)
  • The New York State Bar Association’s Outstanding Prosecutor Award (2017)
  • The New York City Bar Association’s Thomas E. Dewey Medal (2016)

Karen Friedman Agnifilo has also made significant impacts on the criminal justice system, both locally and nationally. Some of her notable initiatives and reforms are:

  • Ceasing the prosecution of crimes related to poverty, such as fare evasion, petty theft, and low-level drug possession.
  • Expanding diversion programs, such as drug courts, mental health courts, and veterans courts, to provide alternatives to incarceration and rehabilitation for offenders.
  • Implementing implicit bias analysis and training, to address the issues of racial and gender disparities in the criminal justice system.
  • Emphasizing collateral consequences and reentry, to help offenders reintegrate into society and reduce recidivism.
  • Creating specialized units, such as the Antiquities Trafficking Unit, the Human Trafficking Response Unit, the Hate Crimes Unit, the Counterterrorism Program, and the Cybercrime and Identity Theft Bureau, to combat emerging and complex crimes.
  • Developing the national Sexual Assault Kit Backlog Elimination Grant Program, to provide funding and resources for testing and processing untested rape kits across the country.
  • Forming the “Inside Criminal Justice” program, to pair prosecutors with incarcerated individuals who are striving to reenter society, and to foster mutual understanding and respect.
  • Establishing the Criminal Justice Investment Initiative, to invest in the betterment of youth, families, and communities, through education, employment, and social services.

Personal Life

Karen Friedman Agnifilo is married to Marc Agnifilo, who is also a criminal defense attorney. They met in 1996, when they were both working as Assistant District Attorneys in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. They have two children, a son and a daughter. They live in New York City.

Karen Friedman Agnifilo is active on social media, where she shares her views and insights on various legal and social issues. She also appears as an on-air legal analyst for CNN, where she provides commentary and analysis on current and breaking news stories.


Karen Friedman Agnifilo is a remarkable woman who has dedicated her life to the pursuit of justice. She has a wealth of experience and expertise in the field of criminal justice, as a criminal defense attorney, a prosecutor, and a legal advocate. She has handled complex and high-profile cases, reformed the criminal justice system, and advocated for positive change. She is a respected and influential figure in the legal community, and a role model for many aspiring lawyers. She is Karen Friedman Agnifilo, and this is her wiki.

A Three-Decade Journey in Criminal Justice – Career Gear (2024)
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