Fitzgerald fights terrorists, mob, corruption at City Hall
Published October 29, 2005
CHICAGO - A man who's been bungee jumping even though he doesn't like heights, federal prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald will go a long way to challenge himself.
The attorney behind the CIA leak investigation has taken on Democrats at Chicago City Hall as well as Republicans at the White House in a career that has included chasing terrorists and the mob. The 44-year-old New Yorker, now Chicago's chief federal prosecutor, is digging into Mayor Richard M. Daley's political empire, and corruption charges are flowing. At the same time he has been investigating the disclosure of a CIA agent's identity in an investigation reaching to President Bush's top aides.
He's also behind the prosecution of former Gov. George Ryan on charges that Ryan steered contracts to friends and insiders in return for free vacations and other gifts while he was Illinois secretary of state during the 1990s.
As the hard-driving son of a Brooklyn doorman jets between Chicago and Washington, Fitzgerald is becoming one of the country's best known federal prosecutors.
So intense has been his inquiry into payoffs and fraud at City Hall that there's talk of a possible effort by politicians to get Fitzgerald out of town. He brushes aside such questions.
"I'm just going to do my job until the telephone rings and somebody tells me not to," he said.
Fitzgerald graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Amherst College and then from Harvard Law School. After a three-year stint in a private law firm, he joined the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan, getting in on high-profile cases and eventually heading the antiterrorist unit.
In 1993, he helped jail a Gambino crime family capo and three other mobsters for murder, racketeering, narcotics trafficking and other crimes.
He helped send Omar Abdel Rahman to federal prison for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and conspiring to blow up bridges and buildings.
And he supervised the 1996 trial of three men who plotted to blow up 12 airliners.
Fitzgerald also brought charges that Osama bin Laden and 22 of his followers conspired to murder Americans and were responsible for the August 1998 bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa. Four defendants went to trial and are serving life.
Since he arrived in Chicago in 2001, dozens of city workers and trucking executives have been indicted in a payoff investigation, including the former boss at the city water department who was a political powerhouse.
Matthew Piers, an attorney who has gone up against Fitzgerald, says he's overzealous.
Piers represented Enaam Arnaout, the head of a defunct Muslim charity whom Fitzgerald charged with funneling aid to al-Qaida. He said Fitzgerald, using an old photo showing Arnaout with bin Laden, hyped charges against his client as fear swept the country after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Arnaout made a last-minute deal to plead guilty to defrauding his donors. He is serving 11 years.
[Last modified October 29, 2005, 01:46:07]
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