An amateur photographer's exhaustive documentation of Ground Zero and the rescue workers he met there has gained him national recognition since Sept. 11 - and yesterday it won him a break from a federal judge.December 11, 2003 -- An amateur photographer's exhaustive documentation of Ground Zero and the rescue workers he met there has gained him national recognition since Sept. 11 - and yesterday it won him a break from a federal judge.
Six months before David Margules peered though a camera lens at Ground Zero - becoming the first to shoot the now-famous construction-beam crucifix - he was one of about 30 people arrested by the feds in connection with a $108 million boiler-room stock scheme.
But since the terror attacks, "his life has undergone an extraordinary change," his lawyer Maranda Fritz told Brooklyn federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis, submitting a taped interview with ABC newsman Peter Jennings that aired on the first anniversary of Sept. 11 as proof.
The lensman won the trust of the city's firefighters and took 10,000 pictures of their recovery efforts.
Garaufis noted that Margules also had a relatively minor role in the securities-fraud scheme, and agreed to sentence him to three years on probation.
"I think Mr. Margules should be very proud of this work he has done," Garaufis said. "Crisis has the tendency of bringing out the good in us."
Under a plea deal with Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth Breen, Margules faced up to six months in prison for joining in the 1997 scheme that targeted the likes of tennis star Steffi Graf and NFL linebacker Bryan Cox during a stint as a broker for First United Equities.
Margules pleaded guilty to securities fraud in November 2002. Four of his clients, a group that did not include the sports stars, lost nearly $1.1 million during the five months he worked as a broker at the crooked firm from June to October 1997.
But, since then, several photographs by Margules have been exhibited at the New-York Historical Society - and one print found its way to the White House, where it hangs on an administration official's office wall.
A portion of all sales from the photographs have gone to supporting firefighters' widows.
"I became a volunteer photographer and I gave it my all," Margules told Garaufis, calling the firefighters "amazing men."
His friend, retired firefighter Anthony Cummo of Ladder Co. 173 in Queens, looked on from the spectator gallery.
"I'm hoping a little of that will have rubbed off," Cummo said.
Garaufis did not fine Margules, who claims he is broke, but ordered him to pay a percentage of his income as restitution once he is more financially secure.
The head of the scheme, First United owner Hunter Adams, was given the maximum sentence of nine years behind bars in September and ordered to pay $100 million in restitution.