The Wall Street Journal editorial board on Thursday called for the ouster of Patrick Fitzgerald over his handling of the mostly unsuccessful prosecution against former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
A federal jury in Chicago on Tuesday found the disgraced ex-governor guilty on one count of making false statements to federal agents. The jurors were deadlocked on the 23 other counts against Blagojevich, including the charge that he tried to sell the Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama.
Fitzgerald said at a December 2008 news conference that the charges “would make Lincoln roll over in his grave,” before pursuing an aggressive case against the former governor.
The editorial board wrote that Fitzgerald’s behavior “more and more suggests another unaccountable federal prosecutor run amok.”
“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,” the editorial board wrote.
The U.S. Attorney, who has led the Northern District of Illinois U.S. Attorney’s Office since 2001, is known for aggressive prosecutions against high-profile public figures, including I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the national security adviser to former Vice President Dick Cheney. He was convicted in 2007 on charges stemming from the disclosure of CIA officer’s identity, but his sentence was later commuted by then-President George W. Bush.
He also won a conviction in 2007 against Canadian media magnate Conrad Black on charges stemming from an illegal business deal. But Black was released from prison after the Supreme Court ruled that the “honest services” fraud charge in the case was too broad.
Fitzgerald said there will be a retrial in the Blagojevich case. The U.S. attorney’s office is almost ready to begin jury selection, and a judge scheduled a hearing on the subject for Aug. 26, the Associated Press reported Thursday.
Sam Adam Sr., one of the ex-governor’s lawyers, said at a news conference on Tuesday that Fitzgerald is “nuts.”
“I wish this entire group would go upstairs and ask Fitzgerald one question: I understand he’s got an important job, but why are we spending 25 to 30 million dollars on a retrial? You couldn’t prove it the first time,” Sam Adam Jr., who is also representing Blagojevich, said Tuesday, according to the AP.