John J. Burfete Jr., 77, of Bryn Mawr, a career prosecutor who was a pioneer and early expert in the areas of technology and computer crime, died Monday, May 9, at home, from complications of a stroke.
A graduate of Dickinson School of Law in 1973, Mr. Burfete started his legal career in Harrisburg as a staff attorney for the Republican caucus of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
But his passion was as a prosecutor, and in 1976, he returned to Montgomery County and joined the staff of the District Attorney’s Office. He tried more than 100 jury trials and rose to the position of chief of appeals.
In 1979, Mr. Burfete left that agency to begin his career with the newly formed Office of the Attorney General of Pennsylvania. He joined the agency’s Criminal Law Division, serving as prosecutor in the Harrisburg, Philadelphia, and Norristown offices and supervising investigations and conducting trials in numerous counties across the state.
In 1988, he was appointed chief deputy attorney general for the agency’s Organized Crime Section. He developed an expertise in the emerging law of high technology and computer crime. In 2001, Mr. Burfete was made the agency’s first chief deputy attorney general of the computer forensics section. While in that position, he became a lecturer on the law of high-technology crime, computer search and seizure, forensics examination, and trial preparation and testimony.
After he retired from the Attorney General’s Office in 2005, he represented military veterans pro bono who were pursuing claims appeals before the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs until he retired from the active practice of law in 2013.
The son of the late John J. Burfete Sr. and Nancy O’Donnell Burfete, Mr. Burfete was a Norristown native who graduated from Bishop Kenrick High School in Norristown. He went on to graduate from La Salle College in Philadelphia in 1966 with a bachelor’s degree in political science.
After college and before law school, Mr. Burfete spent four years in Germany in the U.S. Army Security Agency.
For all his professional accomplishments, Mr. Burfete’s greatest pleasure was time spent with his loved ones.
“He was passionate about the law and loved his career, but his true devotion was to his two daughters and two grandchildren,” said his daughter Mary. “Nothing brought him more joy than spending time with them and watching them grow. He was a loving father and Pop Pop who would do anything for his family.”
Mr. Burfete also loved to travel and inspired his children to also see the world, said his daughter, a New York City resident. Some of his favorite places abroad were Germany, Ireland, and Paris, but he also relished the time he spent in Ocean City with family and his Alpha Phi Omega fraternity brothers.
He was a music lover, especially the Beatles, oldies and opera. He took many trips to New York City to go to the Metropolitan Opera House with family and friends.
And, a true Philadelphian, he was a loyal Eagles and Phillies fan.
Before retiring, he was a member of the bars of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania and the U.S. Supreme Court, and Montgomery and Delaware County Bar Associations.
He was a member of St. John Neumann Parish in Bryn Mawr. In addition, he was a life associate member of the General Smedley D. Butler Detachment No. 741 of the Marine Corps League in Newtown Square and a past master of the Richard Vaux Ivanhoe Lodge No. 384, F&AM, in Philadelphia.
In addition to his daughter Mary, Mr. Burfete is survived by daughter Ann B. Scheving of Philadelphia, former wife Anne “Nancy” H. Whelan, two grandchildren, and numerous cousins.
Mr. Burfete was an organ donor and donated his body for medical study under the Humanity Gifts Program.
A Mass will be held at 11 a.m., Thursday, June 23, at St. John Neumann Church, 380 Highland Ave., Bryn Mawr.
Online condolences can be sent to the Donohue Funeral Home, Wayne, Pa., at www.donohuefuneralhome.com.
In lieu of flowers, family members request donations be made to the charity of one’s choice in Mr. Burfete’s memory.