Posts Tagged ‘patrick fitzgerald’

CHICAGO / As the newspaper with the nation’s largest combined online and print copy circulation, an editorial in the ‘Wall Street Journal’ gets a lot of reads and carries a lot of weight.

Many eyeballs must have bugged out, including those in the head of Patrick Fitzgerald, when the venerable newspaper called for his resignation.  Fitzgerald is the federal prosecutor who was delivered a stunning loss in court in the case his team brought against the former governor of Illinois Rod Blagojevich.

Yesterday, Blagojevich was convicted on just a single count stemming from a question and answer session with the feds five years ago and completely unrelated to those much publicized corruption charges he smeared the governor with a super-sensational news conference nearly two years ago.

Fitzgerald announcing that his office will re-try Blagojevich, prompted  this harsh reaction from the  ‘Wall Street Journal’ which called on Fitzgerald to resign or be fired.

:If Mr. Fitzgerald doesn’t resign of his own accord, the Justice Department should remove him,” the paper writes.

(Read the entire ‘Wall Street Journal’ editorial)

Here’s a sample of the editorial:

A more triumphant outcome might have been expected judging by Mr. Fitzgerald’s bravura press conference two years ago, which he held following a pre-dawn arrest at the Blagojevich home. Then, the U.S. Attorney spoke of “what we can only describe as a political corruption crime spree” and accused Blagojevich of “the most appalling conduct” that would have “Lincoln roll over in his grave.” It was “a truly new low,” Mr. Fitzgerald told the world.

A truly new low would truly be something in Chicago politics, where money and power seem to be especially fungible. But even Chicago politicians deserve the full and fair protection of the law, while the Fitzgerald method is to abuse the legal process to poison media and public opinion against high-profile, unsympathetic political targets.

As the former Justice Department lawyer Victoria Toensing noted in these pages at the time, Mr. Fitzgerald violated prosecutorial ethics by speaking “beyond the four corners of the complaint,” to use the criminal law vernacular for the facts at issue, thus possibly tainting the jury pool.

But then, this was merely one of Mr. Fitzgerald’s extrajudicial public declarations. Another notable episode occurred during his pursuit (as special prosecutor) of former Vice Presidential chief of staff Scooter Libby in the Valerie Plame affair. At a 2005 press conference, Mr. Fitzgerald implied that Mr. Libby had obstructed his investigation into who leaked the former CIA analysts’s name, even though he knew from the start that the real “leaker” was Richard Armitage.

Then there was the railroading of Conrad Black, the conservative newspaper baron who was convicted in 2007 using the infinitely malleable “honest services” fraud law. The Supreme Court junked much of that law earlier this year, leading to Mr. Black’s release from prison. The jury had earlier dismissed nine of the 13 charges Mr. Fitzgerald filed.

This pattern points to a willful prosecutor who throws an exaggerated book at unpopular defendants and hopes at least one of the charges will stick, even as he flouts due process and the presumption of innocence when the political winds are high. If Mr. Fitzgerald doesn’t resign of his own accord, the Justice Department should remove him—especially after such other recent examples of prosecutorial bad faith or bad judgment involving Blackwater contractors in Iraq, the forgotten backdating accounting scandal and the late Senator Ted Stevens.

Prosecutors have vowed to retry Blagojevich this fall on the other 23 mistrial counts. But if he really is guilty, then incompetence alone is grounds for Mr. Fitzgerald’s removal.

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