David Lee Windecher grew up poor in Miami in a community burdened by guns and drugs. Against the odds, Windecher rejected the world in which he was a self-described “gangster,” to become a lawyer and mentor for at-risk youth. Before renouncing gang life, Windecher was arrested 13 times. He is now using his story to inspire others that are attempting to make something of themselves when a life of crime, drugs, or violence is all they know. He wrote a book entitled The AmerIcan Dream: HisStory in the Making.
Windecher should serve as an inspiration for troubled offenders at any age. He is living proof that you can turn your life around if you put your mind to it. He joined the Georgia bar in 2012 and the Florida bar last year. He recently set up his own criminal defense practice. A portion of the proceeds of his book fund his nonprofit RED Inc. (Rehabilitation Enables Dreams). RED Inc. funds a GED program, together with a program run by the office of DeKalb County Solicitor Sherry Boston.
Windecher was reluctant to share his story at first. “I talk to my clients about my background, and a lot of times they get emotional. At first I was hesitant; being that transparent can make you vulnerable.” He and his siblings grew up in poverty. He was first arrested at the age of 11 for shoplifting. He chose to join a Hispanic gang after a beating by local black gang members. He needed money, so he formed a crime ring before he could even drive. His crime ring dealt drugs, stole cars, and robbed businessmen. As a teenager, his life consisted of gang activity and he was arrested repeatedly for various offenses including grand theft, battery, assault, and conspiracy.
By his early 20s, Windecher wanted out of gang life and was determined to turn his life around.
He enrolled in college and graduated American Intercontinental University with a bachelor’s in business administration and a 3.97 grade point average. He worked in public relations for a few years and then took and passed the LSAT. He was accepted to John Marshall Law School in Atlanta in 2009. He interned at a criminal defense firm Arora &LaScala, where he would return for his first job. Partner Michael LaScala was not bothered by Windecher’s criminal past. “We knew all about those kinds of things; he was very up front and open about it. I thought it was an asset to have somebody who’d gone through all that and can show clients that you can work your way through these situations.”
Windecher’s past raised concerns about his fitness to sit for the bar and subsequently practice law, but he wrote an explanation of his effort to turn his life around, and managed to persuade the bar examiners that he should be able to take the test and practice law if he passed (which he did). Windecher says that he has not lost a single case since he started practicing law. As part of his work mentoring at-risk kids, he sometimes returns to his old neighborhood. “It’s extremely hard, because the whole area is saturated with gangs; I’m constantly looking over my shoulder, on the alert. It’s still like that; I lost a friend about two weeks ago and decided not to go to the funeral. I still feel guilty going back, being successful. Some of these people haven’t had the breaks I’ve had.” He believes that his current position as a criminal defense attorney and a mentor is his purpose in life. He should serve as an inspiration to all at-risk individuals, that if you work hard enough, you can overcome a criminal past.
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