Legendary Defense Attorney Ron Meshbesher ’57 Dies

June 14, 2018

Ron Meshbesher ’57, whose storied career as a defense lawyer included some of the most sensational trials in Minnesota legal history, has died.

After graduating from the Law School, Meshbesher started his legal career as a prosecutor in the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office. He tried 45 felony cases in his first three years, earning a 92 percent conviction rate. In 1961, he co-founded the Minneapolis law firm of Meshbesher & Spence.

It was on the defense side of the aisle that Meshbesher arose to fame and prominence. He successfully represented Ken Callahan, who was charged with the 1972 kidnapping of Virginia Piper. Piper was released after her husband paid $1 million in ransom. The case remains unsolved. Meshbesher also represented Marjorie Caldwell in a double-murder case that arose out of the deaths of 83-year-old heiress Elisabeth Congdon and her night nurse, Velma Pietila, at Glensheen Mansion in Duluth. Caldwell, Elisabeth’s adopted daughter, was acquitted, but her husband, Roger Caldwell, was convicted and went to prison for the crimes. 

Meshbesher at one time was quite possibly the most well-known defense attorney in Minnesota. He also once served as president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL). The recipient of numerous professional awards, he was known for his wit, his friendliness, and sartorial elegence.  

In recent years, Meshbesher had been living with Alzheimer’s disease. He moved to an assisted living facility in early 2017.

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Ron Meshbesher ’57
Ron Meshbesher ’57 (Photo: Bill Klotz)

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