Paul Alexander Sangillo learned at a young age the importance of education, hard work, integrity and seeking the truth.
The highly acclaimed attorney, from Sparta, has released ‘The Golden Prison,’ a book that contains the pith of his many experiences as an attorney wrapped into a murder mystery.
The main character, Jeff Rhodes, in ways embodies Sangillo. After working his way through college and a grueling three years of law school, the thirsty young main character lands a position in one of New York’s most prestigious law firms.
“It’s his dream job, his surroundings are luxurious, and he’ll finally be making a large salary,” Sangillo said. “He even starts a relationship with the beautiful Cassandra, with whom he hadn’t stood a chance in law school.”
What Rhodes initially feels is just a hunch turns out to be a daunting truth when his friend and mentor is killed. Rhodes discovers the death is part of an intricate scheme involving his boss and firm. The protagonist and the love of his life become involved in a race against time to prove what they have uncovered to authorities before they become the next victims.
Though The Golden Prison was released just before the pandemic hit, the idea for the book was spawned when Sangillo was in law school.
“A buddy of mine and I started talking about writing a book in light of the many ‘characters’ with eccentric personalities we encountered in law school,” Sangillo said.
Getting to law school was a challenging road for Sangillo. He was the youngest of three children and raised in a single-parent household in Weehawken. He credits his mother, Daisy, for creating a loving and nurturing home, for her perpetual emphasis on the essence of education and for her hard work to support the family.
Sangillo was valedictorian at Weehawken High and went on to Columbia University where he was a HSF Scholar and earned his BA in Political Science making the deans list (‘93). He balanced this with working throughout to pay for the ancillary expenses that his financial aid and scholarships did not cover. When Sangillo was a boy, he planned to be an astronaut, that changed to planning to go to business school but that was usurped by a sudden burning desire to become an attorney.
He earned his Juris Doctor degree at Columbia Law School in 1996.
“It wasn’t easy,” he said. “Going from high school to college was hard, and going from college to law school was an entrance into an ultra competitive environment. Transitioning to my first job...well that was the most intense I’d ever imagined.”
Sangillo started his career in real estate and corporate law as an associate at several New York area law firms. He worked his way up to become a partner at Florio Perrucci Steinhardt & Fader, located in New Jersey. Along the way, he worked for the New Jersey Assembly Speaker as Assistant General Counsel for the New Jersey General Assembly Majority Office. He handled a number of high-profile cases including representing redevelopment companies in prominent construction and redevelopment projects. This included the construction of the Prudential/Devils Arena, a $350,000,000 avante-garde facility in downtown Newark.
“So many experiences contributed to the creation of The Golden Prison, including one involving my sister,” he said.
In 2000, Maria Sangillo Zone was at Court TV and went to the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, N.Y. to conduct an interview with convicted murderer Kenneth Kimes. The felon took her hostage, holding a pen he had concealed in his sleeve to her throat deeming it a hostage situation. Sangillo was notified and feared for his sister’s life. Fortunately a negotiator finally grabbed the pen from Kimes and freed his sister after several hours.
“It’s something I’ll never forget,” he said.
The Golden Prison was completed in 2005/2005 but sat on a shelf for many years. Sangillo said it was rejected about 100 times for varying reasons. However, he said was that everyone he gave the book to read loved it.
After all those years trying to get his own book published but to no avail, Sangillo and his brother felt it was paramount to share their sister’s story and pitched her story to a man they had met who was in TV productions. He didn’t take the story, but years later, Sangillo went back to him with The Golden Prison.
“Micky Hyman of Red Sky Presents reviewed my manuscript and said it needed some heavy editing,”. Sangillo said.
Hyman sent it to the proper blue-penciler to polish.
“The editor did a great job,” Sangillo said.
The Golden Prison is about believing in yourself and your beliefs and pursuing the truth coupled with someone pulling themselves out of poverty to find success. It’s also a testament to real-world law.
“When you’ve been practicing for x number of years, there can be a certain glamor, but in order to get there it takes a lot of pains taking, grueling work, long nights, Sangillo said. “It’s a far cry from what’s glamorized in LA Law and countless TV shows.”
He feels that our greatest president was Abraham Lincoln, and embodies one of Lincoln’s famous quotes: ““Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”
“I’m very happy with what I’ve accomplished,” Sanillo said.
He is currently the Vice President of Legal for Innovative Cosmetic Concepts, and said throughout the process of writing and getting The Golden Prison published, he has been thankful for the tremendous support of his wife, Alexandra, and daughter, Francesca.
“My daughter is my treasure and my wife is a very talented artist who helped me develop the video clip for the book,” he said.
The Golden Prison is available on Amazon.