Patrick Fitzgerald may have arrived in town as the new U.S. attorney in August 2001, but he didn’t really arrive until April 2, 2002, when he stood before the television cameras and announced the stunning news: Gov. George Ryan’s three-decades-old campaign committee was being charged as a “criminal enterprise” whose thirst for money had led to the ever-widening driver’s-licenses-for-bribes scandal.
In a meaty 80-page indictment, Fitzgerald alleged “a pervasive pattern of fraud and corruption,” with schemes that stretched from secretly paying off state employees for campaign work to arranging prostitutes in Costa Rica for Scott Fawell, Ryan’s chief of staff when he was secretary of state. Even the state’s organ donor program was dirty under Ryan, Fitzgerald said; marketing contracts for the program were awarded as political favors to a fundraising friend. All told, the indictment suggests, Citizens for Ryan had bilked the citizens of Illinois out of at least $1 million-including the purchase of an industrial-size shredder to destroy the evidence.
The indictment made U.S. history. It marked the first time a political campaign had been charged under the federal racketeering statute that is ordinarily used against organized crime. It was also thought to be only the third time a campaign had been charged with federal criminal misconduct of any kind, the other two being Richard Nixon’s 1972 Committee to Re-Elect the President, infamously known as CREEP, and three committees linked to Lyndon LaRouche’s 1984 presidential bid.
The indictment represented something else as well-a star turn for Fitzgerald. “Breathtaking in detail and breadth,” says Terrance Norton, a former federal prosecutor who is now executive director of the Better Government Association. Political commentators read the charges as an attack on Illinois’s political culture, a sign of a new aggressive stance toward public corruption.
At the press conference announcing the indictment, Fitzgerald was asked if the defendants hadn’t just been doing things “the Chicago way.” “I’m not going to comment on what ‘the Chicago way’ is,” he said. “What I can tell you is this case is far beyond that. If you look at this racketeering indictment, it consists of a pervasive period of activity of people routinely being diverted from state work to campaign work.”
Right. The Chicago way.
And so Fitzgerald, the Mob-busting, terrorist-chasing 41-year-old prosecutor from New York City tabbed as the outsider who would clean up the town, sealed his place as the political man of the moment, despite his professed political independence (to avoid aligning himself with a party, he doesn’t vote in primaries). Gubernatorial candidates Jim Ryan and Rod Blagojevich can argue all they want about who can best restore trust and integrity in Illinois politics. It is Fitzgerald who is likely to have the most impact on the state’s political culture in the coming years.
The monster indictment against Citizens for Ryan, et al., was just the topper-so far-in a series of aggressive moves by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois. (In fact, on May 21st, Fitzgerald indicted three more associates of Governor Ryan-including his close friend Lawrence Warner-for soliciting nearly $3 million in kickbacks during Ryan’s tenure as secretary of state. “For the better part of a decade in Illinois,” said Fitzgerald as he announced the charges, ”. . . the fix was in for a price.” What’s more, the indictments alleged, Warner had also shared the money with an unnamed “Official A,” who many speculated was actually George Ryan. The governor angrily denied that he had ever taken any kickbacks.)
Suddenly, every power center in the state seems to be under federal investigation, from hyperconnected Near North Insurance impresario Mickey Segal to the players in the proposed Rosemont casino. In an old inquiry that has gained new life, federal investigators are trying to ferret out a ghost payrolling scam in Cook County government. And there is growing speculation that a probe of city contracts awarded to the reputedly Mob-connected Duff family is closing in on Mayor Richard M. Daley’s inner circle. (Also worth noting: The U.S. attorney’s office in Springfield, which isn’t under Fitzgerald’s direction, is investigating Eastern Illinois University labor negotiations that involved Illinois Speaker of the House and state Democratic Party chairman Michael Madigan, as well as Loretta Durbin, the lobbyist wife of Illinois’s Democratic U.S. senator, Dick Durbin.)
While it is true that Fitzgerald didn’t start all of these investigations, there is a good chance, that, except for the Springfield case, he will be the one who finishes them. He has already given a noticeable spark to some of the proceedings. Five days after the Citizens for Ryan indictment, the Chicago Tribune published an approving editorial about Fitzgerald’s stint so far under the headline “A Breathtaking 76 Days.” A further sign that the stranger from New York had penetrated the city’s consciousness came when Sun-Times gossip columnist Michael Sneed christened Fitzgerald with most-eligible status, noting that the boy-faced, broad-shouldered former rugby player was still single.
Fitzgerald had arrived, indeed. Even if we didn’t know much about him.
People who have worked closely with Fitzgerald, however, say that he is more than just a priest of prosecution. They describe a quirky prankster whose sly sense of humor is cutting enough to have made him the speechwriter most in demand for roasts of departing prosecutors in New York City. This is a man who, inexplicably, keeps dirty socks in his desk drawers (“When you do a case with him, you don’t want to look for a pen,” a former colleague says). For eight years, he neglected to have the gas stove in his Brooklyn condo turned on. “Eccentric and kooky,” says a high-ranking staff member in the U.S. attorney’s office in New York City. “But he’s very lovable that way.”
Back East he’s known as “Fitzy.”
“I like to take the job seriously, but not myself,” Fitzgerald told me in a brief interview. He otherwise declined to comment.
Fitzgerald takes his job seriously enough that his best friend and former colleague, James Comey, now the U.S. attorney in New York City, suggests that thousands of people on the planet would like to put a bullet in Fitzy’s head. After all, Fitzgerald has prosecuted the most vengeful kinds of criminals: big-time mobsters and terrorists. With Comey, he put a couple of members of the notorious Gambino crime family behind bars. He was chasing associates of Osama bin Laden around the globe well before the Saudi terrorist mastermind became a household name in America. Within 48 hours of the bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998, Fitzgerald was in Nairobi personally taking the case’s key confession.
For security reasons, he does not get mail at home. He won’t say, even by neighborhood, where home in Chicago is.
With that kind of background, you’d think prosecuting the schemes of petty politicians might be a step down. Comey, though, says Fitzgerald was ready for a change. Some people in Illinois were not.
With George W. Bush moving into the White House, it fell to renegade Republican senator Peter Fitzgerald (no relation to Patrick), as the state’s senior member of the President’s party, to recommend new U.S. attorneys in Illinois’s three federal districts. Senator Fitzgerald, locked in a death match with fellow state Republicans, went outside the Illinois legal establishment to find a candidate without any local ties, someone he thought would be independent and aggressive with no regard for politics.
The locals took the senator’s approach as a slap in the face (“Totally unnecessary,” says Lassar). Dennis Hastert, the Illinois congressman and Speaker of the House, was so aggravated with Senator Fitzgerald that he reportedly appealed to the White House to include him in the selection process.
It has never been the Illinois way to scour the nation for the best candidate available (though it should be noted that Patrick Fitzgerald did come highly recommended, by, among others, Louis Freeh, the former director of the FBI). Rather, the Illinois way (and a tradition in many other states) has been to reward a known hometown commodity.
Senator Fitzgerald was acting on the not uncommon belief, most prominently purveyed by Trib columnist John Kass, that the legal and political establishments in Illinois were just a bit too cozy. An even darker slice of conventional wisdom holds that the U.S. attorneys over the past quarter century have been so much a part of the establishment that they have avoided attacking major political figures-or at best, they have picked off politicians from the other political party, the one that hadn’t appointed the U.S. attorney.
Former federal prosecutors say that’s hogwash. “The office has worked without politics for so long that no one would dare try to influence it,” says Lassar, now a commercial litigator and white-collar defense lawyer at Sidley Austin Brown & Wood. “I never got a call from anybody trying to influence anything.” Lassar’s predecessor, James Burns, today the inspector general in the Illinois secretary of state’s office, says he took plenty of heat-for going after fellow Democrats. “Investigative agencies by and large drive the cases,” Burns says. “It’s not politics.”
Besides, Lassar and Burns say, the career prosecutors in the office wouldn’t stand for a U.S. attorney who let politics influence his or her work. Soon they would be leaking word of the misdeeds to the media. And FBI agents would be just as obstreperous, they say.
What’s more, a string of U.S. attorneys have captured plenty of scalps in cases that exposed political sleaze. More than 20 years ago, Thomas Sullivan launched Operation Greylord, which took down 15 judges and 49 lawyers for fixing cases, and led to massive reform of the Cook County courts. As an assistant U.S. attorney at the time, Lassar tried the first two judges. Though Operation Silver Shovel is more widely credited to Burns and Lassar, it was Fred Foreman who in the early nineties started that sting; it involved an ex-con serving as a mole who found public officials willing to be paid off in return for a variety of political favors. Operation Haunted Hall, a mid-nineties investigation into ghost payrolling on city, county, and state staffs, was Burns’s doing; at the time, he was both criticized for going after small fish and minority pols and hailed for attacking the very essence of Illinois’s political culture. Operation Safe Road, the licenses-for-bribes investigation, began under Lassar.
Still, there is no denying that U.S. attorneys here have moved readily in and out of the prevailing legal-political circles. The modern era starts with former governor James Thompson, now the fat-cat chairman of the politically powerful law firm of Winston & Strawn. Between 1971 and 1975 he was a crusading U.S. attorney; “We are fed up with corruption in this town and we’re going to end it,” he said at the time. Thompson, a Republican, put a parade of Democrats in jail, most notably Mayor Richard J. Daley’s City Council finance chairman and floor leader, Alderman Thomas Keane, and federal appeals judge and former Illinois governor Otto Kerner, himself a former U.S. attorney. Though Thompson’s methods were sometimes controversial-the widespread use of immunity in exchange for testimony, a high media profile, and the creative use of obscure laws like the mail fraud statute-he rode his success into the Governor’s Mansion.
Thompson’s successors all seem to have come from the same pool. Sam Skinner, now cochairperson of Hopkins & Sutter, went on to become U.S. Secretary of Transportation, White House chief of staff, president of Commonwealth Edison, and a member of several corporate boards. Anton Valukas was a Jenner & Block partner before and after his tenure as U.S. attorney; now he represents white-collar criminal defendants, as does Sullivan, also at Jenner & Block. (Sullivan recently defended William Hanhardt, the disgraced former chief of detectives convicted of running a nationwide jewelry ring for the Mob from inside the Chicago Police Department.) Dan Webb works with Thompson at Winston & Strawn as one of the nation’s pre-eminent trial lawyers. Foreman, three times the Lake County state’s attorney before becoming U.S. attorney, wields clout as a partner at Freeborn & Peters, where he specializes in “governmental relations” and regulatory law. (In the wake of Mickey Segal’s indictment, Foreman joined the board of directors of Near North Insurance.) Burns ran in the Illinois Democratic gubernatorial primary in 1998. Lassar, who once described himself as a defense lawyer on leave, returned to white-collar defense and commercial litigation.
Fitzgerald, his friends say, is a different animal and it is unlikely he would move from the U.S. attorney’s office into a high-paying law firm or make a run at politics. “He’s not about ambition,” Comey says. “He really doesn’t care. He’s into his cases.” Fitzgerald could be a candidate one day for the top job at the FBI, or maybe even U.S. Attorney General. Both are political jobs in their own way, but the implication is that he is unlikely to be influenced by a concern for smoothing his future in Chicago. “He’s not going to cash in,” says Samuel Seymour, a former New York prosecutor who is now a white-collar criminal defense lawyer.
What does that mean for his conduct in office? Perhaps his perspective will be different when it comes to the tough judgment calls. For example, in the weeks before the 1998 gubernatorial election, Lassar announced that candidate George Ryan (then secretary of state) was not a target of the licenses-for-bribes investigation, which had just turned in its first indictments. The political community read the statement as a clean bill of health for Ryan, paving the way for his slim victory over the Democratic nominee, Glenn Poshard. Lassar says he made the statement to be fair to Ryan. “He was not under investigation. Most people would’ve held the indictment until after the election. To me, that’s playing politics. My philosophy is that you should indict when you’re ready.”
But Lassar was aware of political reality, he says, so he made his statement about Ryan “to soften the blow.” Under similar circumstances, Fitzgerald may feel less of an impulse to soften anything.
But Comey, for one, says Fitzgerald’s real impact will be felt in the drive he brings to federal law enforcement here. “He’s got a good U.S. attorney’s office that can be great,” says Comey. “The difference is not being less political than Scott Lassar. What [Fitzgerald] brings to the office is tremendous energy. He will fire the place up. A U.S. attorney has a unique ability to lift an entire law enforcement community.”
Fitzgerald certainly didn’t campaign for the job. Indeed, when it was dangled, he almost didn’t apply for it. He was absorbed in the embassy bombings trial. “He said, ‘Look, I’m too busy to do this,’” Comey recalls. Comey and his colleagues pleaded with Fitzgerald to take a weekend and fill out the long, cumbersome application devised by Senator Fitzgerald. When the senator finally announced his choice, Patrick Fitzgerald flew in for a day to meet the Chicago press-on Mother’s Day-and then hurried back to New York to continue working on his case. “The guy has no life,” Comey says.
Indeed, Fitzgerald’s extreme workaholic tendencies seem to keep him from attending to even the most basic domestic duties. To teach him a lesson about the dangers of leaving his cat alone while he hotfooted it around the globe chasing terrorists, Fitzgerald’s colleagues on an antiterrorism task force once kidnapped the cat and took snapshots to show Fitzgerald some possible endings for the poor creature: holding the cat off the Brooklyn Bridge, putting a gun to its head, and visiting a Chinese restaurant. “They said, ‘It can be whatever you want; pick whatever you want,’” Comey says. Ultimately, the cat ended up on a farm.
Pet or no, Fitzgerald was rarely at home. Once, when his Brooklyn condo was burglarized, a cop walked in and saw a stack of newspapers on top of the gas burners. “Whoa, buddy, that’s not a good idea,” the cop warned. Fitzgerald told him not to worry. In eight years in the condo, he had never called the gas company to turn the stove on.
Comey says Fitzgerald is working on getting out more here in Chicago. “He’s attended some cocktail parties. The thing he remembers is how many people were there-10, 13. . . .”
One thing that Patrick Fitzgerald can tell you is how to avoid a waxy buildup on your floors. He worked as a janitor to help pay his way through college, and he took it very seriously. He studied it. He learned the secrets to excellent custodial care.
He also worked as a doorman for an apartment building, just as his old man did. His mom and pop were Irish immigrants; Fitzgerald grew up a good Irish Catholic boy in working-class Brooklyn, with a brother and two sisters. His smarts and grades got him into a prestigious Jesuit high school, then Amherst College, where he made Phi Beta Kappa while earning a degree in math and economics, and Harvard Law, class of ‘85.
He spent three years in private practice as a civil litigator before becoming a federal prosecutor. His dream was to work in the famed U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. The office frequently serves as a political launching pad for those who have run it, most recently former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Other occupants have included presidential near miss Thomas E. Dewey, Elihu Root (a Nobel Peace Prize winner who was Teddy Roosevelt’s Secretary of State), and Henry Stimson, who was Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Secretary of War.
Fitzgerald started in the general crimes unit. Comey supervised his first trial and got an early taste of Fitzgerald’s quirks. “Pat has many, many gifts, but organization is not one of them,” Comey says. “He came in with his trial exhibits in a pile of papers in this shopping cart that we call a trial cart,” Comey says. The paperwork was loose, scattered. “I said, ‘You can’t just have them there like this; we have to have them in files.’ He came back with a pile of unmarked files stacked in the same manner. He couldn’t see what was wrong with that. I said, ‘This does not help the situation.’”
Fitzgerald turned out to be wonderfully organized inside his head. He quickly made a mark with his trial preparation and ability to digest complex cases, which won him a new assignment: prosecuting wise guys out of the organized crime unit.
At the time, New York prosecutors were on a roll dismantling the leadership of several Mafia families, including the Gambinos, finally throwing its flamboyant and elusive boss, John Gotti, into the federal pen in Marion, Illinois. Fitzgerald’s starring role came in 1993, when he and Comey prosecuted Gambino brothers John and Joseph, capo and soldier, respectively, in the Gotti army. (John and Joseph were distant cousins of the crime family’s founder, Carlo Gambino.)
The Gambino brothers, and several associates, were accused of being the major distributors of heroin smuggled into the country by the Sicilian Mafia. Fitzgerald opened the trial promising the jury a “frightening look at what goes on inside the Mafia” that would include chilling accounts of murder, bribery, and loansharking. The proceedings featured all the color of a Mafia trial, albeit of the second-tier variety, including testimony from Sammy “the Bull” Gravano, the Mafia turncoat who helped put Gotti behind bars.
The end result was a mixed bag for Fitzgerald. While a jury found the Gambinos guilty of jumping bail, it deadlocked on the other charges and the judge declared a mistrial-this in a case Comey and Fitzgerald had spent two years putting together. The Gambinos later pleaded guilty in exchange for 15-year sentences. (In an e-mail, Jerry Capeci, editor of Ganglandnews.com, said, “It was hung 11-1 for conviction and they copped pleas rather than try it again. The feds suspected that the holdout juror had been bought, but they never could nail it.” Capeci found it “interesting,” though, “that both guys would become U.S. attorneys in the two major cities in the country when they couldn’t convict a couple of gangsters despite tons of evidence.")
Still, Fitzgerald put himself on the map with the case. “For [four] months, we battled every day, and it never got personal,” says George Santangelo, who represented Joseph Gambino. “It was a very tough case on both sides. [Fitzgerald] cleaned me in some areas, and I hope I did it to him in a few areas, but I always knew where he was coming from. [He’s got] terrific judgment; he’s very fair, honest, straightforward, all business, and has a lot of heart.” Santangelo said he was glad Fitzgerald was out of New York.
The Gambino prosecution ended up being more of a capstone to his days prosecuting organized crime than a springboard. In February 1993, a bomb exploded at the World Trade Center, killing six people and injuring thousands. Fitzgerald joined the investigation, and when the case finally went to trial in 1995, he served as one of the three Young Turks prosecuting the biggest terrorism trial yet in America. The trial lasted eight months, as prosecutors presented more than 200 witnesses and more than 100 hours of secret recordings in order to prove its theory that a blind Egyptian cleric, Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, and nine others had engaged in a broad conspiracy of terror, including the trade center bombing and the assassination of right-wing Jewish extremist Rabbi Meir Kahane.
In closing arguments, Fitzgerald said Abdel-Rahman had declared “jihad with the sword, the cannon, the grenade, and the missile,” and that “the defendants in this room conspired to steal from Americans their freedom from fear.” The jury found the sheik and his associates guilty.
In August 1998, nearly simultaneous attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania killed 224 people, including 12 Americans, and injured scores of others. Within 48 hours, Fitzgerald was on the ground in Africa. The enemy, he concluded, was bin Laden, who would later be indicted (though obviously he was never captured and brought to trial).
Ultimately, four men were tried, in an arduous, three-month-long affair. When jurors finally went into deliberations, they were faced with a 61-page verdict sheet based on 302 separate counts, each requiring unanimity to convict.
In his closing arguments, Fitzgerald had the courtroom in tears as he invoked the name of an African victim. “Someone whom you’ve heard precious little about,” Fitzgerald said, “[is] Rosaline Wanjeku Muwangi, and she’s count number 123 in the indictment. . . . This trial is about her murder. . . . Now it’s time for [the] light of the truth to shine through and give Rosie one thing: justice.” The defendants were found guilty on all charges.
Just a month after Fitzgerald’s arrival here, Thomas Kneir arrived from Jacksonville, Florida, to head the local FBI office. His agenda meshes well with Fitzgerald’s. What’s more, while Fitzgerald’s background does not include public corruption cases, Kneir’s does. Among other credentials, Kneir was chief of the FBI’s public corruption unit from 1989 to 1991. Even from afar, he has always had a keen appreciation for the Chicago school of political chicanery. “Gee whiz-if it wasn’t invented here, it was perfected here,” he says.
More important, he and Fitzgerald seem to be on the same page. “We’re like a manufacturing plant, and the U.S. attorney is like the customer,” Kneir says. “If we want to make Geos, we want to make sure he wants to buy them.”
In Kneir’s case, he wants to focus on the heavy-duty cases that no one but crack federal investigators can make. And those are the cases Fitzgerald is buying. “Less ‘Betty Lou the teller takes 25 grand,’” Kneir says. “I’d rather do the toughest nuts to crack. . . . Chicago is like a smorgasbord. I keep telling my people, ‘You know how they put the macaroni and the filler first and the prime rib and lobster tail is down the table? Don’t fill up on the little stuff. Push past that stuff and get to the big cases.’”
Fitzgerald’s style plays into Kneir’s thinking. “He’s taken an aggressive stance,” Kneir says. “That’s very good for me. That keeps my agents enthused about their cases. When the cases move faster, it keeps the agents on their toes.”
There are dangers to having an overly aggressive prosecutor. Although no outsider has seriously challenged the results in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing case, legal commentators have pointed out that Sheik Abdel-Rahman and his compatriots were tried under a Civil War–era sedition statute, and the evidence was almost wholly circumstantial.
Fitzgerald’s strategy in the Mickey Segal case has been described as something right out of Rudy Giuliani’s playbook, with its penchant for media-friendly melodrama. Instead of notifying Segal’s lawyer of an impending indictment, as is usually done in white-collar cases, Fitzgerald’s agents lured Segal to the Westin Hotel, where he was intercepted and put through two hours of questioning designed to get him to provide information about an unnamed public corruption case.
The case against two Chicago-area Muslim charities provides the biggest test of Fitzgerald’s creativity and aggressiveness. In December, the U.S. government froze the assets of the Palos Hills-based Benevolence International Foundation and the Bridgeview-based Global Relief Foundation because of suspected terrorist links. Both charities then challenged the move in civil lawsuits against the government. Acting in part with new leeway granted by the USA Patriot Act, passed by Congress after September 11th, Fitzgerald sought (and has so far secured) permission from a federal judge to use secret evidence against the charities, a tactic that strikes many observers as dangerous and profoundly un-American. A lawyer for the Benevolence foundation has said the Patriot Act is “wildly unconstitutional”; it looks as if the Chicago case could become the first big test of the legislation.
That wasn’t all. In a deposition in the Benevolence lawsuit against the government, the head of the charity, Enaam Arnaout, proclaimed his organization’s innocence. So the U.S. attorney’s office charged him with perjury. The rare move enraged the charity’s supporters and angered some local Muslim Arab American leaders. Earlier, Fitzgerald had won high marks for his sensitive handling of Arabs here on student or tourist visas in interviews ordered by U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft in the wake of September 11th.
By the time May arrived, Fitzgerald, in his nine months here, had woven himself fully into the local scene. It seemed he was holding press conferences every day. His April 30th announcement about an alleged Palos Hills link to Al-Qaeda was carried live on CNN (Fitzgerald says he will prosecute the criminal case personally). The next day he announced charges against seven people who allegedly were part of a multistate ring that trafficked in endangered species. The following day was the sentencing of Hanhardt, the former Chicago Police chief of detectives (15 years, 8 months in the pen). The day after that, Fitzgerald announced new indictments in a case of identity theft just minutes after Ashcroft had announced an identity theft initiative and named the Chicago case as one of the worst ever.
And then came May 6th, a day on which Fitzgerald seemed to be fully reigning over the law enforcement community of northern Illinois. In the morning, he appeared with Daley, four aldermen, Chicago Police superintendent Terry Hillard, Cook County state’s attorney Dick Devine, the associate director of the state corrections department, and other law enforcement officials (including the local chief for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) to announce that his office would review gun possession cases and consider filing federal charges-which could result in harsher penalties than offenders would get in state court.
That is something Daley and Hillard had wanted to do for years. “Let’s put it this way,” Hillard told me later. “We have talked about it, and the mayor has talked about it. But it never went anywhere. [Fitzgerald] got involved. He’s law enforcement; he’s not just a lawyer. They’re not just a bunch of lawyers over there.”
Fitzgerald didn’t just appear at the press announcement, held at the Columbus Park Refectory on the West Side in the Austin neighborhood (Chicago’s 15th Police District), which has one of the city’s worst homicide rates. He ran the event, introducing the mayor and the other participants one by one and taking questions from the press. He was clearly in charge. “He’s going to be the driving force behind how we do business in the Northern District of Illinois,” Hillard says. “He’s the leader.”
That night, Fitzgerald gave the keynote speech to the 51st annual meeting of the Seventh Circuit Bar Association and Judicial Conference, in the Grand Ballroom of the Hotel Inter-Continental. Dinner was served at 7 p.m. (beef Wellington, a cherry merlot sauce, grilled salmon, three-cheese potato, and haricots verts), but the program seemed to run long; Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens didn’t wrap up his (short) annual remarks until just after nine.
Fitzgerald spoke next. Whether he had planned to keep it short or he had seen how long the night had grown, Fitzgerald held the podium for just under ten minutes. His talk was titled “The Role of the Prosecutor in the 21st Century.” He skimmed over the four challenges prosecutors faced today: global terrorism, national security, urban violence, and the Internet. It was dull. Very dull. He probably went back to work afterward-hungry cat or no.
He’s not exactly an international man of mystery, but Patrick J. Fitzgerald comes closer to that status than you might expect. He has such a low-key public persona that one political observer described him as “the most boring interesting guy in town.” At first glance, he appears to be a stiff. Resolute, but dull. A workaholic with a charisma deficit. Not much of a change, that is, from his predecessor, Scott Lassar.