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Author and law Professor Jack Goldsmith writes deeply personal book ‘In Hoffa’s Shadow’

photo of Jack Goldsmith and his book

Jack Goldsmith, author and law professor, discusses his latest book “In Hoffa’s Shadow" at a special event on March 18.

March 06, 2020

Editor's note: An earlier version of this article included details of an event at ASU with the author, which has since been cancelled. 

Author Jack Goldsmith is the stepson of Charles “Chuckie” O’Brien, a longtime associate of labor leader Jimmy Hoffa, the former International Brotherhood of Teamsters president who famously disappeared in 1975.

Goldsmith's latest book is called “In Hoffa’s Shadow: A Stepfather, a Disappearance in Detroit, and My Search for the Truth.”

O’Brien was a child when he first met Hoffa in the early 1940s and served as his closest assistant for decades, with Hoffa often referring to him as “my other son.”

“In Hoffa’s Shadow” tells the story of how Goldsmith reunited with the stepfather he’d disowned and then set out to unravel one of the 20th century’s most persistent mysteries and O’Brien’s role in it. Along the way, Goldsmith explores Hoffa’s rise and fall and why the golden age of blue-collar America came to an end, while also casting new light on the century-old surveillance state, the architects of Hoffa’s disappearance, and the heartrending complexities of love and loyalty.

Goldsmith, a Harvard Law School professor and one of the nation’s leading experts on international law, served as the Barry Goldwater Visiting Chair of American Institutions at Arizona State University and ASU Law for the 2016–2017 academic year. He is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, co-founder of the national security blog Lawfare and served in the George W. Bush administration as the assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel from October 2003 to June 2004.

After Hoffa’s disappearance, O’Brien was long suspected by the FBI of having played a role in the presumed murder. As a young man, Goldsmith had revered his stepfather, but as Goldsmith grew older and pursued a career in law and government, he came to doubt and distance himself from O’Brien. Years later, when Goldsmith began questioning the government’s use of surveillance and its powers while serving in the Bush administration, he began to reconsider his thoughts about his stepfather, as well as Hoffa’s legacy.

O’Brien was portrayed in Martin Scorsese’s 2019 Oscar-nominated film “The Irishman” by actor Jesse Plemons. Goldsmith was critical of the depiction, writing in a New York Times essay in January: “The circumstantial case against Chuckie fell apart long ago, and his known whereabouts on the fateful day make it practically impossible that he picked up Mr. Hoffa. Unfortunately, the government never made this information public. And so Chuckie’s innocence in one of the most notorious crimes of the 20th century remains mostly hidden, his guilt remains publicly presumed, his honor remains soiled.”

O’Brien passed away Feb. 13 at age 86 at his home in Boca Raton, Florida.

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