Patrick Fitzgerald

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Patrick Fitzgerald
Patrick Fitzgerald.jpg
Patrick Fitzgerald, Official DOJ Portrait
Personal details
Born (1960-12-22) December 22, 1960 (age 54)
Brooklyn, New York
Citizenship United States
Spouse(s) Jennifer Letzkus (1 child)
Alma mater Amherst College (B.A.)
Harvard Law School (J.D.)
Religion Roman Catholic

Patrick J. Fitzgerald (born December 22, 1960) is a lawyer in Chicago, Illinois. He joined, as partner, the Chicago office of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom as of October 29, 2012.[1] For more than a decade, until June 30, 2012, Fitzgerald was the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.[2] As special counsel for the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Special Counsel, Fitzgerald was the federal prosecutor in charge of the investigation of the Valerie Plame Affair, which led to the prosecution and conviction in 2007 of Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff Scooter Libby for perjury.[3][4]

As a federal prosecutor, Fitzgerald led a number of high-profile investigations, including ones that led to convictions of Illinois Governors Rod Blagojevich and George Ryan, media mogul Conrad Black, several aides to Chicago Mayor Richard Daley in the Hired Truck Program, and Chicago detective and torturer Jon Burge.


Fitzgerald was born into an Irish-American Catholic family in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, growing up in the Midwood-Flatbush neighborhood. His father (also named Patrick Fitzgerald) worked as a doorman in Manhattan.

Fitzgerald attended Our Lady Help of Christians grammar school, before going on to Regis High School, a prestigious Jesuit Catholic school in Manhattan, and received degrees in economics and mathematics from Amherst College, Phi Beta Kappa, before receiving his JD from Harvard Law School in 1985.[5] He played rugby at Amherst[6] and at Harvard he was a member of the Harvard Business School Rugby Club.

Reports indicate that despite being universally seen as extremely competent, intelligent, and meticulous in his work, behind the scenes he is ironically messy, scatterbrained, and fun-loving. His desk and his office are kept in permanent disarray, with assistants discovering drawers stuffed with dirty socks.[7] He once forgot to hook up gas to his stove for several months, and also forgot a lasagna he had cooked in the oven for three months before finally rediscovering it there.[7] He is known to work well past midnight often and to sleep in his office.[7] He enjoys beer, basketball, and practical jokes. Once when a colleague was nervously waiting for an answer for a judge on a motion, Fitzgerald wrote and delivered a fake court opinion to the colleague.[7] He tried for several months to adopt a cat, but was refused due to his work habit. He finally found a friend in Florida with a cat to give away, which she had flown to him in New York.[7]

Fitzgerald married Jennifer Letzkus in June, 2008.[8][9] It is his first marriage and her second; Letzkus was married from 2001 to 2004 to Cisco executive Jeremy Crisup. Their son, Conor Patrick Fitzgerald, was born on December 21, 2009. They also have a son, Declan.


New York[edit]

After practicing civil law, Fitzgerald became an Assistant United States Attorney in New York City in 1988. He handled drug-trafficking cases and in 1993 assisted in the prosecution of Mafia figure John Gambino, a boss of the Gambino crime family.[10] In 1994, Fitzgerald became the prosecutor in the case against Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman and 11 others charged in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.[11]

In 1996, Fitzgerald became the National Security Coordinator for the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. There, he served on a team of prosecutors investigating Osama bin Laden.[12] He also served as chief counsel in prosecutions related to the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.


On September 1, 2001, Fitzgerald was nominated for the position of U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois on the recommendation of U.S. Senator Peter Fitzgerald (no relation), a Republican from Illinois. On October 24, 2001, the nomination was confirmed by the Senate. The Senator had urged the selection precisely because Patrick was not from Chicago (Patrick said that he had visited Chicago only one day, for a wedding in 1982, before being selected).[13]

Soon after becoming U.S. Attorney for Northern Illinois, Fitzgerald began an investigation of political appointees of Republican Illinois Governor George Ryan, who were suspected of accepting bribes to give licenses to unqualified truck drivers. Fitzgerald soon expanded this investigation, uncovering a network of political bribery and gift-giving, and leading to more than 60 indictments. Ryan was indicted in December 2003. At the conclusion of the trial in April 2006, Ryan was found guilty on all eighteen counts against him. Ryan's co-defendant, Chicago businessman Larry Warner, then 67 years old, was convicted of racketeering conspiracy, fraud, attempted extortion, and money laundering. The two were sentenced on September 6, 2006: Ryan received a sentence of six and one half years, and Warner received a sentence of three years and five months.[14]

Against criticism that these cases were based on circumstantial evidence, Fitzgerald responded: "People now know that if you're part of a corrupt conduct, where one hand is taking care of the other and contracts are going to people, you don't have to say the word 'bribe' out loud. And I think people need to understand we won't be afraid to take strong circumstantial cases into court."[15]

On July 18, 2005, Fitzgerald's office indicted a number of top aides to Democrat Richard M. Daley, the mayor of Chicago, on charges of mail fraud, alleging numerous instances of corruption in hiring practices at City Hall.[16] An investigation announced on December 30, 2005 stated that it intended to review contracts between the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority and vendors who signed leases to occupy the remodeled Illinois Tollway oasis. Fitzgerald's office investigated possible conflicts of interest between these vendors and one of Blagojevich's top fundraisers, Antoin Rezko.

In March 2006, former Chicago City Clerk James Laski pled guilty to pocketing nearly $50,000 in bribes for steering city business to two trucking companies. Thus far Laski is the highest-ranking Chicago official and Daley administration employee brought down by Fitzgerald's office in conjunction with the Hired Truck Program scandal.

Since April 2007, Fitzgerald has overseen Operation Crooked Code, the investigation and prosecution of over two dozen defendants for bribery and related charges in City of Chicago's Departments of Buildings and Zoning.[17]

On December 9, 2008, federal agents arrested Governor Blagojevich for conspiring to profit from his authority to appoint President Barack Obama's successor to the U.S. Senate. Fitzgerald said Blagojevich "put a 'for sale' sign on the naming of a United States Senator."[18]

United States Senator Peter Fitzgerald chose not to run for reelection in 2004, leaving Patrick Fitzgerald without a congressional patron. In the summer of 2005, there were rumors that he would not be reappointed to a second four-year term in retaliation for his investigations into corruption in Illinois and Chicago government, as well as for his investigation of the Plame scandal.[19] Those "rumors" were not realized; Fitzgerald continued in the position, and President Barack Obama pledged to keep Fitzgerald on as a U.S. Attorney.[20]

On May 23, 2012 Fitzgerald held a press conference informing the public that he was stepping down from his position and retiring as the US Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois Federal Court effective June 30, 2012.[2] Long-time prosecutor Gary S. Shapiro will be acting US Attorney until a replacement has been decided.[21]

In 2013 Fitzgerald was appointed by Illinois governor Patrick Quinn to the Board of Trustees for the University of Illinois.[22]

Private practice[edit]

Fitzgerald is now a partner with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom in the firm's Chicago office.[23]

Notable cases[edit]

Plame investigation[edit]

See also: Plame affair

On December 30, 2003, after then-Attorney General John Ashcroft recused himself from the CIA leak grand jury investigation of the Plame affair due to conflicts of interest, Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey, acting as Attorney General in Ashcroft's place, appointed Fitzgerald to the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Special Counsel in charge of the investigation.[3][4]

On December 30, 2003, three months after the start of the Plame investigation, Fitzgerald was appointed Special Counsel (under Department of Justice regulation 28 CFR Part 600). Through this, Fitzgerald was delegated "all the authority of the Attorney General" in the matter. In February 2004, Acting Attorney General Comey clarified the delegated authority and stated that Fitzgerald has plenary authority. Comey also wrote "further, my conferral on you of the title of 'Special Counsel' in this matter should not be misunderstood to suggest that your position and authorities are defined and limited by 28 CFR Part 600."[24]

On October 28, 2005, Fitzgerald brought an indictment for 5 counts of false statements, perjury, and obstruction of justice against Lewis "Scooter" Libby, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff. Libby resigned to prepare for his legal defense.

In his first press conference after announcing Libby's indictment, Fitzgerald was asked about comments by Republicans such as Kay Bailey Hutchison, who said "I certainly hope that if there is going to be an indictment that says something happened, that it is an indictment on a crime and not some perjury technicality..." to which Fitzgerald responded, "That talking point won't fly... The truth is the engine of our judicial system. If you compromise the truth, the whole process is lost... if we were to walk away from this, we might as well hand in our jobs."[25]

By March 28, 2006, some bloggers were reporting that on the basis of interviews with people close to the Plame investigation, indictments against Rove or National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley were imminent. However, by mid-June 2006, it was announced that no charges would be brought against Rove. In early April, The New York Times ran a front page story linking Libby to a leak, supposedly ordered by Dick Cheney, that Iraq had been attempting to acquire uranium in 2002. By the thirteenth of the month, many media outlets, including the New York Times, retracted this story, after discovering that the basis of this claim was based on papers filed with the courts the previous week. These papers themselves were corrected via formal statements from Fitzgerald.[citation needed]

On August 28, 2006, Christopher Hitchens asserted that Richard Armitage was the primary source of the Valerie Plame leak and that Fitzgerald knew this at the beginning of his investigation.[26] This was supported a month later by Armitage himself, who stated that Fitzgerald had instructed him not to go public with this information.[27] Investor's Business Daily questioned Fitzgerald's truthfulness in an editorial, stating "From top to bottom, this has been one of the most disgraceful abuses of prosecutorial power in this country's history...The Plame case proves [Fitzgerald] can bend the truth with the proficiency of the slickest of pols."[28]

Robert Novak's testimony in the Lewis Libby perjury trial made it known that the two senior administration sources he cited in his article were Richard Armitage and Karl Rove.[29] Journalist Michael Isikoff received confirmation from Rove's lawyer and from lobbyist Richard F. Hohlt that Rove was also faxed an advance copy of the article revealing a CIA covert agent's identity several days before it was published.[30]

On March 6, 2007, Libby was convicted of 4 out of 5 charges of lying under oath. Fitzgerald announced on the courthouse steps that while he is always open to receiving new information related to the case, he expects to file no further charges, and the prosecutors will "return to their day jobs." Libby was sentenced to a $250,000 fine, 2 years of probation and a 2½ year prison term. After a court of appeals rejected Libby's attempt to delay the prison sentence while he appealed the verdict, President George W. Bush commuted the prison portion of Libby's sentence.[citation needed]

Two days after the verdict, Congressman Henry Waxman, chair of the U.S. House Committee on Government Reform, announced that his committee would ask Plame to testify on March 16, in an effort by his committee to look into "whether White House officials followed appropriate procedures for safeguarding Plame's identity."[31]

In March 2007, it was revealed that Fitzgerald "was ranked among prosecutors who had 'not distinguished themselves' on a Justice Department chart sent to the White House in March 2005..."[32] This was revealed in light of an investigation of the December 2006 firings of several U.S. Attorneys by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, perceived as being politically motivated and despite his previous Attorney General's Award for Distinguished Service in 2002.[33] The Washington Post article states that two other prosecutors so ranked were dismissed. On July 2, 2007, President Bush provided a statement[34] on his decision to commute Mr. Libby's prison sentence and noted:

"After the investigation was under way, the Justice Department appointed United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois Patrick Fitzgerald as a Special Counsel in charge of the case. Mr. Fitzgerald is a highly qualified, professional prosecutor who carried out his responsibilities as charged."

In September 2008, attorney Alan Dershowitz cited the "questionable investigation[s]" of Scooter Libby as evidence of the problems brought to the criminal justice process by "politically appointed and partisan attorney[s] general".[35]

Conrad Black and Hollinger[edit]

On November 17, 2005, Fitzgerald brought criminal fraud charges against former Canadian media mogul, Conrad Black, as well as against three other Hollinger executives. The trial of Lord Black began at the Federal Court in Chicago in March 2007. Black was convicted on July 13, 2007 and later sentenced to serve 78 months in federal prison, pay Hollinger $6.1 million and a fine of $125,000.[36]

RISCISO Indictments[edit]

On February 1, 2006, the U.S. Attorney's Office under Fitzgerald announced that it was indicting nineteen members of Risciso, a software and movie piracy ring, in U.S. District Court in Chicago. The lead prosecutor for the Government in this case was Assistant U.S. Attorney Pravin Rao. This prosecution was the result of an undercover investigation, Operation Jolly Roger, that was part of Operation Site Down—a law enforcement initiative by the FBI and law enforcement agents from ten other countries to disrupt and dismantle many of the leading warez groups that distribute and trade in copyrighted software, movies, music, and games on the Internet.[37][38]

Blagojevich corruption arrest[edit]

On December 9, 2008, Fitzgerald confirmed in a press conference in Chicago that Illinois state governor Rod Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris, had been arrested by the FBI early that morning on charges of corruption. Fitzgerald described Blagojevich's actions as the "kind of conduct [that] would make Lincoln roll over in his grave."[39] Blagojevich was charged with mail fraud and solicitation of a bribe. According to Fitzgerald, Blagojevich attempted to sell off President-elect Barack Obama's open U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder, as well as pressuring the Chicago Tribune to fire editors critical of the Blagojevich administration in exchange for state assistance in selling Wrigley Field.[40] Fitzgerald said at the news conference that, "I laid [sic] awake at night", worrying about the possible firing of Tribune editors.[41]

Fitzgerald's news conference has been criticized by some, including charges that he violated ethical guidelines established by the Justice Department.

Ethical questions[edit]

Victoria Toensing, a former Justice Department official, wrote in an editorial to the Wall Street Journal that prosecutors are allowed to "inform the public of the nature and extent" of the charges against the defendant, but cannot "[make] extrajudicial comments that pose a serious and imminent threat of heightening public condemnation of the accused". Toensing contends that prejudicial comments such as "[the] conduct would make Lincoln roll over in his grave" and that Blagojevich's actions represented "a truly new low" clearly violated this legal ethical standard.[42]

Aside from Toensing's comments, Fitzgerald's prosecution against Lewis "Scooter" Libby attracted criticism. On August 28, 2006, Christopher Hitchens asserted that Richard Armitage was the primary source of the Valerie Plame leak and that Fitzgerald knew this at the beginning of his investigation.[26] A month later Armitage claimed that Fitzgerald had instructed him not to go public with this information.[43]

Investor's Business Daily ran an editorial, which stated: "From top to bottom, this has been one of the most disgraceful abuses of prosecutorial power in this country's history... The Plame case proves [Fitzgerald] can bend the truth with the proficiency of the slickest of pols."[44]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b "U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald stepping down June 30". Chicago Tribune. 2012-05-23. 
  3. ^ a b Savage, Charlie (2003-12-31). "Ashcroft Steps Aside in Probe Into CIA Leak". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2006-09-16. 
  4. ^ a b "Why Did Attorney General Ashcroft Remove Himself From The Valerie Plame Wilson Leak Investigation?". FindLaw. 2004-01-06. Retrieved 2006-09-16. 
  5. ^ Slevin, Peter (2005-02-02). "The Prosecutor Never Rests". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2006-09-16. 
  6. ^ Stephey, M.J. (2008-12-11). "Patrick Fitzgerald". Time. 
  7. ^ a b c d e Shane, Scott (2005-10-22). "Leak Prosecutor Is Called Exacting and Apolitical". New York Times. 
  8. ^ US Attorney Fitzgerald marries teacher ABC Local, June 17, 2008
  9. ^ Patrick Fitzferald Time, December 11, 2008
  10. ^ Wilson, Jamie (2005-10-29). "Workaholic who earned his spurs taking down the mob". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2006-09-16. 
  11. ^ Harris, Paul (2006-02-12). "Saint Patrick's Day". London: The Observer. Retrieved 2006-09-16. 
  12. ^ Fitzgerald, Patrick (2003-10-21). "Testimony of the Honorable Patrick Fitzgerald before the Senate Judiciary Committee". United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary. Archived from the original on August 31, 2006. Retrieved 2006-09-16. 
  13. ^ U.S. "Attorneys Patrick Fitzgerald of Chicago and James Comey of Manhattan are both tough-minded career prosecutors. They're also best friends", American Lawyer, December 11, 2008
  14. ^ Korecki, Natasha; Herman, Eric & Pallasch, Abdon (2006-09-06). "6½ years for George Ryan". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2006-09-16.  [dead link]
  15. ^ Davey, Monica; Ruethling, Gretchen (2006-04-18). "Former Illinois Governor is Convicted in Graft Case". The New York Times. Retrieved 2006-09-16. 
  16. ^ Eisenberg, Daniel (2005-08-01). "Ghosts in the Machine". Time (Time Inc.). Retrieved 2008-01-03. 
  17. ^ Coen, Jeff; Mihalopoulos, Dan. "Feds: City building inspectors bribed". Chicago Tribune. 
  18. ^ Davey, Monica; Jack Healy (2008-12-09). "Illinois Governor Charged in Scheme to Sell Obama's Seat". New York Times. 
  19. ^ Pallasch, Abdon (2005-08-04). "Is Fitzgerald's Time Up?". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2006-09-16. [dead link]
  20. ^ Pete Yost, Fitzgerald an aggressive prosecutor[dead link], Associated Press (December 9, 2008)
  21. ^ "Acting attorney named for Chicago after Fitzgerald leaves". Chicago Tribune. 2012-06-25. 
  22. ^ "Patrick J. Fitzgerald, The University of Illinois Board of Trustees". Archived from the original on 10 July 2014. Retrieved 19 March 2015. 
  23. ^ "Former U.S. Attorney Takes Job at Chicago Law Firm". NBC News. October 22, 2012. Retrieved November 1, 2012. 
  24. ^ Government Accountability Office (2004-09-30). "B-302582, Special Counsel and Permanent Indefinite Appropriation". Government Accountability Office. Retrieved 2006-09-16. 
  25. ^ FDCH e-Media (2005-10-28). "Transcript of Special Counsel Fitzgerald's Press Conference". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2006-09-16. 
  26. ^ a b Hitchens, Christopher (2006-08-29). "Plame Out: Plamegate's ridiculous conclusion". Slate. Retrieved 2006-09-16. 
  27. ^ Washington Post, Armitage Says He Was Source of CIA Leak
  28. ^ "Did Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald Lie?". Investor's Business Daily. 2006-08-29. Archived from the original on 2006-09-02. Retrieved 2006-09-16. 
  29. ^ "Columnist testifies Rove confirmed Plame was CIA". 2007-02-12. Retrieved 2010-05-21. 
  30. ^ A Man of Mystery[dead link] MSNBC - Newsweek reproduction; Michael Isikoff; February 26, 2007
  31. ^ "Plame to testify to Congress on leak". Reuters. March 9, 2007. [dead link]
  32. ^ Eggen, Dan; Solomon, John (March 20, 2007). "Fitzgerald Ranked During Leak Case". Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-05-21. 
  33. ^ Solomon, John (2007-03-20). "Gonzales aide rated Fitzgerald mediocre". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2007-04-11. 
  34. ^ "Statement by the President on Executive Clemency for Lewis Libby". 2007-07-02. Retrieved 2012-04-01. 
  35. ^ Dershowitz, Alan (2008-09-12). "Indictments Are Not The Best Revenge". Wall Street Journal. 
  36. ^ BBC News Business: "Conrad Black convicted of fraud" July 13, 2007.
  37. ^ Associated Press (2006-02-01). "19 Indicted in Software Piracy Plot". CBS News. Retrieved 2006-09-16. 
  38. ^ "19 Indicted in $6.5 million "RISCISO" Software Piracy Conspiracy" (PDF) (Press release). United States Department of Justice. 2006-09-01. Retrieved 2006-09-16. 
  39. ^ "Ill. governor arrested in corruption scandal". Chicago. Associated Press. 2008-12-09. [dead link]
  40. ^ "Fitzgerald: 'New low' in Illinois politics". Breaking News (Chicago: Tribune Company). 2008-12-09. [dead link]
  41. ^ "TRANSCRIPT – Justice Department Briefing on Blagojevich Investigation". The New York Times. 2008-12-09. 
  42. ^ Toensing, Victoria (2008-12-15). "Fitzgerald Should Keep His Opinions to Himself". Wall Street Journal. 
  43. ^ Smith, R. Jeffrey (2006-09-08). "Washington Post, Armitage Says He Was Source of CIA Leak". Retrieved 2012-04-01. 
  44. ^ "Did Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald Lie?". Investor's Business Daily. 2006-08-29. Archived from the original on September 2, 2006. Retrieved 2006-09-16. 
  45. ^ Fitzgerald Named "Fed of The Year" by

External links[edit]