Amherst College

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After Eliot Ness, here comes Patrick Fitzgerald 12/15/2008 London Daily Telegraph (UK) Text
Blagojevich Case Buffs Bipartisan Prosecutor Fitzgerald's Image 12/15/2008 Bloomberg News - Washington DC Bureau Text
U.S. District Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald 12/11/2008 Time Text
U.S. attorney regarded as a straight shooter 12/10/2008 CNN Newsroom - Cable News Network (CNN) Text
Fond Ties Have Grown Between Chicago and Its Corruption Fighter 12/10/2008 New York Times Text
Prosecutor Fitzgerald Again at Center Stage 12/10/2008 ABC News Network Text

After Eliot Ness, here comes Patrick Fitzgerald
London Daily Telegraph (UK)

When it comes to the battle against corruption, there are few better places than Chicago to make your name. More than 70 years after the fall of Al Capone, Chicago has shown the world it remains America's sleaziest city.

And just as the incorruptible Eliot Ness stepped forward to make his name in the 1930s, another tough-nut "Untouchable" is now ready to make the headlines.

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald must have known the comparisons would come thick and fast when he arrived in Chicago in 2001 charged with cleaning up the cynical, money-driven local government.

He may not be risking his life raiding illicit distilleries and breweries but the Brooklyn lawyer has already become something of a folk hero.

As he demonstrated at his press conference on Tuesday, Fitzgerald knows, like his predecessor, how to cultivate the press. He addressed them on first name terms and showed a colourful turn of phrase and easy-going confidence.

He rattled through the alleged transgressions of Rod Blagojevich, the governor of Illinois, with a mixture of disgust and delight.

The governor's conduct, he said, "would make Lincoln roll over in his grave" and was "reminiscent of a salesman meeting his annual sales target".

Like Ness, Fitzgerald is also a formidable workaholic. As a young prosecutor in New York, he did not connect the heating in his flat for several years because he was there so seldom.

Colleagues say Fitzgerald has little room for a social life and indeed he married only this year at the age of 47, to a teacher, Jennifer Letzkus.

His blog, subtitled Fighting for Truth, Justice and the American Way, reveals there was no time for a honeymoon.

Fitzgerald's work ethic was inherited from his father, an Irish immigrant who worked as a doorman in Manhattan and never took a holiday as he raised a family of four in Brooklyn, New York.

Attending a Jesuit school and growing up in a strict but loving working class household also gave him a strong sense of right and wrong, friends say, that he has carried into his professional life and has made him genuinely indignant at wrongdoing.

There was an element of the crusader at his press conference, when he spoke about how the culture of corruption in Illinois could be beaten.

"What's going to make a difference is when people who are approached to pay-to-play (indulge in bribery) first say no, and second report it," he said.

After graduating from the elite Amherst College, where he played rugby, and Harvard Law School, Fitzgerald began at the New York public prosecutor's office at the age of 27 and rose quickly through the ranks.

He moved into the national public eye in 2004 after his appointment as special prosecutor in the investigation of the leaking of the identity of Valerie Plame, a covert CIA agent and the wife of Joseph Wilson, a former ambassador who had criticized the Iraq war.

The investigation led to the conviction of Lewis (Scooter) Libby, chief of staff to Vice-President Dick Cheney, for perjury and obstruction of justice. Many conservatives felt Fitzgerald overstepped the mark, as no one was ever charged with the underlying crime of the leak, and it was not even clear that Plame was even a covert officer at the time her name was revealed to journalists.

Fitzgerald would have been as shocked as anyone to be included on People Magazine's Sexiest Man Alive list in 2005, during the Libby investigation. By that time he was already something of a hero, if not a heartthrob, in Chicago.

Within a year of taking the job as U.S. Attorney for northern Illinois, he began investigating George Ryan, the Republican governor, who in 2006 was sentenced to six years for taking kickbacks on state contracts. He also pursued corruption charges against numerous aides and associates of Richard Daley, the mayor and a Democrat like Blagojevich. Along the way he successfully prosecuted newspaper baron Conrad Black for fraud.

According to one journalist who faced prosecution during the Plame case for not revealing his sources, the governor would probably find his tormentor amenable to deal-making.

In an open letter to Blagojevich, Matt Cooper said: "I don't think you're dealing with some loon. He's a hard ass, but a reasonable one."

But he added as a warning: "Contrition is key here... he can smell a liar. If you beg for mercy, you might get it."

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Blagojevich Case Buffs Bipartisan Prosecutor Fitzgerald's Image
Bloomberg News - Washington DC Bureau

In a city where politics and corruption are often synonymous, Chicago's top U.S. prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, has burnished his image as a guardian of public integrity with the arrest last week of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.

“He's seen almost as a heroic figure,” said Dick Simpson, a former alderman and a political science professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “He's seen as the one effective force who is fighting against political corruption.”

The governor “has taken us to a new low” by trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama, Fitzgerald said at a Dec. 9 news conference. The arrests of the governor and his top aide thwarted a “political corruption crime spree,” said Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney since 2001.

Blagojevich, a Democrat, is the latest high-profile prosecution for Fitzgerald, 47, a doorman's son who has sent politicians, mobsters, terrorists, and businessmen to prison in a two-decade career with the U.S. Justice Department.

In Chicago, Fitzgerald won convictions of Republican George H. Ryan, the previous Illinois governor; Antoin “Tony” Rezko, a former fundraiser for Obama; and Conrad Black, the former Hollinger International Inc. chairman. As a special prosecutor in Washington, he won the conviction of Lewis “Scooter” Libby, ex- chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney.

“He's very bipartisan,” said James Edgar, a Republican who was Illinois governor from 1991 to 1999. “He'll go after either party. He's been very aggressive in going after public corruption and, unfortunately, there's been places for him to go.”

Fitzgerald, a Harvard Law School graduate, worked in New York before coming to Chicago, securing the convictions of four Osama bin Laden associates in May 2001.


Fitzgerald's case against Blagojevich, charged with solicitation of bribery and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, left longtime friend Bill Brandt “astonished,” he said.

“Fitzgerald has blazed a trail in ensuring that citizens get what they bargained for in public service,” said Brandt, a Democratic fundraiser who runs Development Specialists Inc., a Chicago turnaround firm. “I know he faces a fair amount of criticism about his techniques and methods, but if it wasn't for Patrick Fitzgerald, the world would be a far worse place.”

The Blagojevich arrest follows a five-year probe by Fitzgerald into corruption and influence peddling in Chicago that led to the trial conviction of Rezko and criminal charges against other associates of the governor. Blagojevich's name routinely arose in testimony at Rezko's trial this year.

Secret Recordings

Prosecutors secretly recorded Blagojevich using profanity and bullying language. He discussed demands that the Tribune Co., which owns the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Cubs baseball team, fire members of the newspaper's editorial board in exchange for receiving state financial help in selling Wrigley Field, the Cubs' ballpark.

“The conduct would make Lincoln roll over in his grave,” Fitzgerald said at a press conference announcing Blagojevich's charges.

Fitzgerald's probe has been “a model of what a public corruption investigation ought to be,” said Chicago attorney Ronald Safer, who represents P. Nicholas Hurtgen, a former Bear Stearns Cos. executive awaiting trial in a corruption case.

“I've disagreed with him about individual cases,” said Safer, a former federal prosecutor now at Schiff Hardin in Chicago. “I've disagreed with him about approaches, but overall, he's done an outstanding job.”

The governor's arrest has thrown Illinois politics into turmoil. On Dec. 12, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, a Democrat, asked the state Supreme Court for permission to seek the temporary removal of Blagojevich to end doubts about the Senate appointment.

She said yesterday on NBC's “Meet the Press” that he may remove himself today. “The Gov has no plans of resigning tomorrow,” Lucio Guerrero, spokesman for the governor, said yesterday.

‘Tainted Appointment'

“I think Fitzgerald believed that if he didn't act, the governor would make a tainted appointment,” said former federal prosecutor Joshua Hochberg, now at McKenna Long & Aldridge in Washington. “The government will be looking for witnesses to make the case stronger. The prosecutors need to move quickly to fill in the blanks.”

The Brooklyn-born Fitzgerald graduated from Amherst College, working as a both a doorman and janitor before his legal education at Harvard. Earlier this year, Fitzgerald married Jennifer Letzkus, a Chicago teacher who is 12 years younger.

Fitzgerald declined comment through his spokesman, Randall Samborn, about the case, its possible impact on him or his plans after Obama becomes president.

Other federal prosecutors with a winning track record have used their posts to catapult their careers into political office, such as Fitzgerald's former boss, Rudolph Giuliani, who become mayor of New York and a presidential candidate this year.

‘Not Doing That'

Fitzgerald has previously denied any interest in politics.

“I'm not doing that,” Fitzgerald told National Public Radio host Peter Sagal during a guest appearance in July on the weekly news quiz show, “Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me” after his success in the Libby case.

Fitzgerald has not said if he plans to stay in office after Obama becomes president. Obama's transition team said in a statement yesterday that the president-elect plans to retain Fitzgerald, putting him in a position to manage any Blagojevich plea agreement or trial.

Fitzgerald's abilities in courtroom advocacy, trial preparation, legal analysis, and investigative tactics are “quite strong,” said Andrew McCarthy, a former U.S. prosecutor who has known him for 20 years.

He has “a very quick mind” and a “very unusual capacity to remember detail,” said McCarthy, now the legal affairs editor at National Review.

Asked where that leaves Blagojevich, McCarthy said: “It would put him in a world of hurt. All you have to do is read the complaint, and it's obvious there's a lot there already.”

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U.S. District Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald

The 47-year-old U.S. District Attorney dropped many a memorable sound byte when he unveiled corruption charges against Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich on Tuesday, referring to the governor's actions as a "political corruption crime spree" that brought the state's notoriously crooked politics to a "truly new low" and "would make Lincoln roll over in his grave." The rhetoric, called "priggish" by some, is not surprising for a guy who has built his career fighting Mob bosses, terrorists, drug lords and double-dealing public servants like former Bush aide "Scooter" Libby. "It has become a cliché to compare him to Eliot Ness, the Chicago Prohibition agent whom television and movies made into a symbol of incorruptible law enforcement," the New York Times wrote Dec. 9, describing him as a "folk hero" in "prosecutorial spurs."

Fast Facts:

• Born to Irish immigrants in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn. Like his father, Fitzgerald worked as a doorman, helping to pay his way through Amherst College, where he played rugby and graduated Phi Betta Kappa in 1982 before earning a law degree at Harvard.

• Joined the Justice Department in 1988, helping build one of the first criminal cases against Osama bin Laden years before the 9/11 attacks.

• Developed a reputation for tenacity and creativity, once using a Civil War-era sedition statute to win his case against Egyptian cleric Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman following the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. (Afterward, Abdel-Rahman and his attorney were caught on tape discussing how "evil" Fitzgerald was).

• Nominated by President George W. Bush to become U.S. District Attorney of Northern Illinois just 10 days before the 9/11 terror attacks, a position in which he oversees more than 300 employees, including 160 assistant U.S. attorneys.

• Selected in 2003 to find out who leaked the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame to the press. It was less than a month after indicting then-Illinois Governor George Ryan for selling illegal state licenses. Ryan is currently serving a 6-year prison term; Bush commuted I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's 30-month prison sentence.

• Sent New York Times reporter Judith Miller to jail for 78 days for refusing to reveal her sources during the Plame investigation. Editors at the Chicago Tribune blasted Fitzgerald's relentless pursuit of reporters' phone records in a 2005 editorial titled, "Mr. Fitzgerald, Back Off," though the newspaper recently admitted to withholding stories about Blagojevich's case at his request.

• Fond of pulling pranks, even in the courtroom. During a case against the Gambino crime family, he interrupted co-counsel with a playful note asking: "Is there beer in the fridge?" He also once faked an appellate ruling to convince a friend that the defense had won.

• Known to regularly work 100 hours each week, sometimes sleeping in the office. His workaholic tendencies are well-known and, in some cases, well-documented; colleagues told Chicago magazine they once stole his oft-ignored cat to teach him a lesson about leaving it home alone.

• Described as both boyish and handsome, he was named one of People magazine's "Sexiest Men of 2005." But, ladies, eat your hearts out; he married Chicago investment-banker-turned-schoolteacher Jennifer Letzkus.

What Fitzgerald Says:

• "One day I read I was a Republican hack. One day I read I was a Democratic hack. The only thing I did between those two nights was sleep."
— During his investigation into the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity (TIME, October 30, 2005)

• "I've played a lot of practical jokes on people for a lot of years and they all got even at once. OK, new topic!"
— On being named one of PEOPLE magazine's "Sexiest Men of 2005" (Chicago Tribune, November 18, 2005)

• "You're reading tea leaves. Don't. I don't draw a very good tea leaf."
— Dismissing reporters' questions after announcing his first indictment in the Plame scandal (San Francisco Chronicle, October 29, 2005)

• "Do I have zeal? Yes. I don't pretend I don't. If you're not zealous, you shouldn't have the job. Now, sometimes zealous becomes a code word for overzealous, and I don't want to be overzealous. I hope I'm not."
— On his enthusiasm for the job (Washington Post, February 2, 2005)

What Others Say:

• "When I became a government witness, he interviewed me alone and knew the details of my case better than I did. He doesn't rely on a phalanx of aides, although he has them."
— Former TIME journalist Matthew Cooper, on being subpoenaed during the Plame investigation (Portfolio, December 9, 2008)

• "He grew up in a working-class household with a strong sense of morality. He has a sort of 'Oh, gosh' quality, an aspect that's almost corny, that sees things as black or white."
— Former colleague J. Gilmore Childers, who prosecuted terrorism cases with Fitzgerald in New York (New York Times, December 9, 2008)

• "I know this sounds like malarkey, but if he were not a prosecutor, he'd be a priest. He's totally and completely dedicated."
— Richard Phelan, a Chicago lawyer and friend of Fitzgerald's (TIME, October 30, 2005)

• "He's a bit of a moralist, an up-by-his-bootstraps Catholic boy with a strong sense of right and wrong. He's like a Bing Crosby movie. He needs to get out more."
— David Baugh, a Richmond, Va., defense lawyer (TIME, October 30, 2005)

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U.S. attorney regarded as a straight shooter
CNN Newsroom - Cable News Network (CNN)

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who spearheaded the investigation that led to the arrest Tuesday of the governor of Illinois, is regarded by many as a lawman who rose from a modest background by dint of hard work.

"He's a totally honorable guy, straightforward," said Murray Richman, a criminal defense lawyer in the Bronx who has been practicing for 44 years. Richman knew Fitzgerald when he was an assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, before he was named U.S. attorney in Chicago by the Bush administration.

"When Bush appointed him as U.S. attorney in Chicago, I was pleased," said Richman, a lifelong Democrat. "I have not enough good words to say about him."

"He's an outstanding prosecutor, a pure professional," said William Devaney, a former federal prosecutor who spent four years with the securities fraud unit in the U.S. attorney's office in New Jersey and now does white-collar criminal defense.

"He's one of the few U.S. attorneys that essentially got his job based on pure merit alone," Devaney said.

In comments Tuesday, Illinois Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn described Fitzgerald's crime-fighting efforts as heartfelt.

"I heard most of what the U.S. attorney said today in his press conference," Quinn said. "I don't think there are any words that can be added to what he said; you could tell from his tone of voice how strongly he felt about the legal action that he took today on behalf of the people of our country."

Born 47 years ago in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn to Irish immigrants -- his father was an Upper East Side doorman, according to Time magazine -- Fitzgerald attended Catholic schools, majored in economics and mathematics at Amherst College, went to Harvard Law School and then got a job as a federal prosecutor, according to his biography from the U.S. attorney's office.

For 13 years, he was an assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, serving as chief of the organized crime-terrorism unit and handling mob cases, drug cases and the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa. In 2001, four defendants were convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

In 1995, he participated in the trial of U.S. v. Omar Abdel Rahman against 12 defendants who conspired in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

He also oversaw the 1996 prosecution of Ramzi Yousef and others who participated in a conspiracy in the Philippines in 1994 and 1995 to detonate bombs simultaneously on 12 American airliners.

In 2001, he was lured to the job of U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago. He prosecuted Canadian newspaper mogul Conrad Black for misconduct at Hollinger International.

In 2003, he was named special counsel to investigate who leaked the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson.

The investigation led to the conviction of Vice President Dick Cheney's then-chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, on four of five counts that included lying to a grand jury and obstruction of justice.

But not everyone viewed his efforts as laudable. One of them was CNN's Lou Dobbs, who railed at Fitzgerald for jailing then-New York Times reporter Judith Miller for 85 days for refusing to testify about her source.

"I think it is an onerous, disgusting abuse of government power," he said.

Today, Fitzgerald oversees an office with more than 300 employees, including 160 assistant U.S. attorneys and two dozen paralegals, according to his biography.

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Fond Ties Have Grown Between Chicago and Its Corruption Fighter
New York Times

In New York, he earned his prosecutorial spurs going after terrorists and mobsters. In Washington, he brought down the powerful top aide to the vice president.

And as the United States attorney in Chicago, Patrick J. Fitzgerald on Tuesday unveiled the indictment of his second Illinois governor in five years, the latest in a streak of prosecutions that have made him a folk hero in a state beleaguered by official crime.

“He's a relentless investigator,” said Joel R. Levin, a Chicago lawyer who worked for Mr. Fitzgerald as a federal prosecutor until earlier this year. “He leaves no stone unturned.”

Still boyish at 47, Mr. Fitzgerald became a familiar face nationally last year when he won the conviction of I. Lewis Libby Jr., the former top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, for perjury in the exposing of a covert Central Intelligence Agency officer.

But in Chicago, Mr. Fitzgerald has become a prominent figure as he has taken on the dark, cynical world of local government, where abuse of power appears to have become a way of life. It has become a cliché to compare him to Eliot Ness, the Chicago Prohibition agent whom television and movies made into a symbol of incorruptible law enforcement.

At his Chicago news conference — a frequent enough occurrence that he addressed reporters by their first names — he spoke with a kind of appalled relish about the alleged crimes of Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich. He quoted from wiretapped conversations and rattled off details of shakedown attempts.

“The conduct,” Mr. Fitzgerald declared, “would make Lincoln roll over in his grave.”

He portrayed Mr. Blagojevich as seeking to sell a Senate seat “like a sports agent.” He said that in the last few years even the spectacle of imprisoned politicians had not deterred the state's “pay-to-play” culture of bribery.

“We're not going to end corruption in Illinois by arrests and indictments alone,” he said. “What's going to make the difference is when people who are approached to pay-to-play first say no, and second report it.”

The son of Irish immigrants to Brooklyn, Mr. Fitzgerald was raised in New York City and made his reputation there prosecuting Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind Egyptian cleric who plotted to bomb local landmarks; trying four men for the East African embassy bombings; and helping to build a criminal case against Osama bin Laden.

In 2001, when Mr. Fitzgerald moved to Chicago to become United States attorney, friends thought he might pine for home. In fact, he has found the Second City has its charms.

Long a workaholic bachelor who slept in the office during big mob and terrorism trials in New York, Mr. Fitzgerald found love, marrying Jennifer Letzkus, a local Head Start teacher who is a former investment banker, earlier this year. And he has discovered that for a federal prosecutor, the northern district of Illinois has many targets.

Shortly after he took the Chicago job, he began an investigation of Gov. George Ryan, a Republican, who was convicted in 2006 of steering state contracts to cronies in return for bribes and sentenced to six years in prison. The same year his office pursued corruption charges against associates of Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago, a Democrat like Mr. Blagojevich, in a program to rent trucks for city jobs.

Chosen by an old friend, James B. Comey, deputy attorney general at the time, he pursued the C.I.A. leak investigation with a ferocity that angered some in the Bush administration. A highlight of Mr. Libby's trial was a videotape of Mr. Fitzgerald's patient, deft and devastating questioning of him before a grand jury.

“He doesn't shy away from indictments because of political party, holiday season or anything else,” said Cindi Canary, executive director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.

When he was appointed, “there was a low-grade murmur that there are good people here, why get a New Yorker,” Ms. Canary added. “You didn't hear that once he got started.”

“People see him as the only ally we have against political corruption,” she said. “Every time there's a hint that he might be replaced there's an outcry.”

Partly because of the long history of corruption cases in Chicago, United States attorneys there have often been more prominent than in most cities. Some have used the post as a step to the governor's mansion or other political perches.

But friends say that Mr. Fitzgerald, who played rugby at Amherst College and in 2005 was named by no less an authority than People magazine to its “sexiest men alive” list, is a natural for pursuing criminals.

J. Gilmore Childers, who prosecuted terrorism cases with Mr. Fitzgerald in New York, said his old friend had a sort of righteous indignation at wrongdoing.

“He grew up in a working-class household with a strong sense of morality,” Mr. Childers said. “He has a sort of ‘Oh, gosh' quality, an aspect that's almost corny, that sees things as black or white.”

But Mr. Childers said Mr. Fitzgerald's zeal disguised a devilish sense of humor. “As tough as he is as a prosecutor, he's just as devious in pulling pranks on his friends,” Mr. Childers said. Once, he recalled, Mr. Fitzgerald wrote up a fake appellate ruling and presented it to a fellow prosecutor hosting him for dinner, with condolences that they had lost their appeal. (In fact, they won.)

Mr. Fitzgerald has said nothing about his future as Barack Obama prepares to assume the presidency, often an occasion for turnover among United States attorneys. But Senator Richard J. Durbin, the senior senator from Illinois and a Democrat, has publicly called on Mr. Obama to keep Mr. Fitzgerald on, and the betting is that he will remain in the job.

Even if he departs soon, he has left his mark, said Tim Samuelson, the City of Chicago's official cultural historian.

“When people tell the story of Illinois politics,” Mr. Samuelson said, “Patrick Fitzgerald will unquestionably have a major role. People talk about him as having a lot of guts in a tough job, and it's a job he seems to like.”

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Prosecutor Fitzgerald Again at Center Stage
ABC News Network

He's brought down governors, prosecuted terrorists, investigated the CIA leak scandal and made a famous list of "sexiest men."

It's no wonder top career officials at the Justice Department admitted to ABC News that they'd like to clone U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.

He's handled some of the most high profile cases at the Justice Department and is widely known for his intense work ethic. On Monday, the 47-year-old Fitzgerald was before the American people again, telling reporters during a news conference -- shown live across the country -- that an investigation conducted through his office had caught Democratic Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, "in the middle of what we can only describe as a political corruption crime spree."

Among other things, Blagojevich allegedly tried to sell President-elect Obama's former U.S. Senate seat in exchange for political favors and contributions. It was conduct, Fitzgerald said, that "would make Lincoln roll over in his grave."

The son of Irish immigrants, the Brooklyn, N.Y., native worked as a doorman and a janitor to pay his way through college. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Amherst College in 1982 and proceeded to Harvard Law School, obtaining his degree in 1985. Fitzgerald joined the Justice Department in 1988, after three years at the New York law firm Christy & Viener.

He rose through the ranks at Justice, prosecuting mob and terrorism cases at the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan. He worked on the case of the "Blind Sheikh," Omar Abdel Rahman, and other defendants in the 1993 World Trade Center bombings, and oversaw the investigation of the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.

An 'Elliot Ness' Kind of Career

Fitzgerald also worked on the government's case against Osama bin Laden. When he wasn't tracking terrorists, Fitzgerald still found time for organized crime, working on the 1993 trial of John Gambino, part of the larger investigation of the Gambino crime family.

His workaholic approach and long hours have become legend in legal circles. One career Justice Department employee told ABC News he only knew Fitzgerald's office phone number, because he was always there, even on Sundays.

A Chicago Magazine profile of Fitzgerald in 2002 bolstered that impression, noting that even after eight years in his former Brooklyn condo, he hadn't called a utilities company to have the gas switched on.

But the long hours have taken their toll, at least on his past pets, according to one anecdote from the same Chicago Magazine article, which has become Justice Department legend.

"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 anti-terrorism 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," the magazine reported.

Asked to confirm the cat-napping operation one longtime Fitzgerald associate from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York told ABC News, "Some secrets I take to the grave." As for the cat, the magazine said it ultimately ended up on a farm.

But in a move that suggests he's made time for matters outside of work, Fitzgerald married Chicago teacher Jennifer Letzkus earlier this year, leaving a trail of broken hearts for those who had hoped to snag one of People Magazine's "Sexiest Men of 2005."

Of that sexy superlative, the intensely private Fitzgerald told reporters at the time, "I've played a lot of practical jokes on people for a lot of years and they all got even at once. OK, new topic!"

And he has many other topics on which to focus his attention. After 13 years working as an assistant U.S. attorney in New York, former Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, R-Ill, who is no relation, suggested Fitzgerald for the job of U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. The lawmaker tapped him as an outsider who could clean up corruption in Chicago.

President Bush appointed Fitzgerald to take the helm and oversee more than 300 employees, including 160 assistant U.S. attorneys. He started the job 10 days before the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.

Chicago Corruption Specialist

In Chicago, Fitzgerald prosecuted the now-imprisoned Republican Gov. George Ryan of Illinois in a federal corruption case involving the sale of illegal state licenses. His office also handled the prosecution of publishing magnate Conrad Black, who was convicted on racketeering, fraud and obstruction of justice charges. On Tuesday, he added the current governor to his office's list of corruption targets.

But his work extends beyond the borders of the 18 counties in northern Illinois, which his office serves. Fitzgerald was appointed the special counsel in the CIA leak investigation, involving Valerie Plame, which resulted in the 2007 conviction of Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff Scooter Libby. A federal judge sentenced Libby to 2½ years in prison, but Bush commuted the sentence before he reported to prison.

With a prosecution that reached into the innermost circle of the White House came some intense criticism. Some said he was too harsh, ordering the imprisonment of journalists, most famously former New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who refused to comply with subpoenas they saw as unfair.

After a judge ordered Miller to jail for contempt of court in 2005, Times executive editor Bill Keller called the action "a chilling conclusion to an utterly confounding case." Miller later testified after working out an agreement with her then-confidential source Libby.

But another reporter caught up in the probe, who opted not to go to jail, acknowledged Fitzgerald's dedication to the case.

Matthew Cooper, the former Time Magazine reporter who was one of several reporters linked to the leak investigation, wrote an open letter to Blagojevich on his blog on, "When I became a government witness, he interviewed me alone and knew the details of my case better than I did. He doesn't rely on a phalanx of aides, although he has them. He knows the case and will make the decisions himself."

Several former Bush administration figures are alleged to have pushed for Fitzgerald's ouster, including former White House adviser Karl Rove. One former Justice Department aide admitted in congressional testimony that he labeled the federal prosecutor "undistinguished" during the run-up to the controversial firing of at least nine U.S. attorneys in 2006. Under questioning from Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill, at the 2007 hearing, Kyle Sampson admitted that he "immediately regretted" adding Fitzgerald's name to the list.

Peter Zeidenberg, a former federal prosecutor and deputy co-counsel during the CIA leak investigation who is now a partner at the law firm DLA Piper, said of Fitzgerald, "All of the accolades are deserved, there is no hype."

"He is extremely smart. He is extremely hardworking. & It's the whole package," Zeidenberg said. "He has an incredible work ethic."

Although Fitzgerald's term as U.S. attorney is set to expire at the end of the Bush administration, officials and legal experts have speculated that Fitzgerald could become the chief of the Justice Department's Criminal Division or serve as the deputy attorney general; some also believe he could be appointed the next FBI director after Robert Mueller's term ends.

But Fitzgerald's tenure in Chicago might not end just yet -- Durbin, Illinois' senior senator, and the president-elect have expressed support for Fitzgerald's work as a prosecutor.

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