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.
A former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois will receive an American Inns of Court’s 2010 Professionalism Award for the 7th Circuit, the group announced Monday.
The legal mentoring organization will honor Dan K. Webb, who led the Chicago-based U.S. Attorney’s office from 1981 to 1984, at a ceremony next week for his “unquestioned integrity and a remarkable dedication to our profession and the rule of law.” The American Inns of Court noted Webb’s leadership as U.S. Attorney in the “Operation Greylord” judicial corruption probes that led to prison sentences for 76 judges, police officials and lawyers in Cook County, Ill.
Webb is currently the chairman of Winston & Strawn LLP. He is one of the country’s most prominent white-collar defense attorneys and has represented public figures in corruption probes, from former House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dan Rostenkowski (D-Ill.) to former Illinois Gov. George Ryan (R). Read more about Webb here.
This story was updated with additional biographical information.
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U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel on Wednesday warned former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who is facing criminal charges in a public corruption case, to stay within the rules as his corruption case heads toward trial, The Associated Press reported. Zagel said he couldn’t allow the legal equivalent of head butts — a dirty tactic — to take place at the trial, which is slated to begin in June in the Northern District of Illinois.
The hearing came a day after the impeached governor taunted Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald to show up in court Wednesday for a pre-trial hearing, if he is “man enough.” Fitzgerald wasn’t in court on Wednesday.
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Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Blanchard has been elected the newest judge on the District 4 Court of Appeals in Dane County, Wis., according to the Associated Press. With about two-thirds of the precincts reporting, Blanchard, who is now the Dane County District Attorney, led Richland County Circuit Judge Edward Leineweber by 63 percent to 37 percent.
The court hears appeals cases from 24 counties in the southern and central portion of the state. Blanchard’s six-year term will begin in August.
Blanchard worked as a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Northern District of Illinois from 1990 to 1997. He left to office to join a private law firm in Madison where he worked until 2000, when he was first elected Dane County district attorney. He has since won re-election four times.
In related news, former Assistant U.S. Attorney James Daley was elected mayor of Oconomowoc, Wis., over incumbent Maury Sullivan, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported. Daley worked as a North Carolina federal prosecutor in 2007.
Vote tallies in the Blanchard-Leineweber race have been corrected.
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Former Illinois Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich today pleaded “innocent ” on charges following his re-indictment earlier this month, Bloomberg reports. On Feb. 4, a federal grand jury on Thursday issued a new 113-page, 24-count indictment against Blagojevich.
Last month, the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Northern District of Illinois, headed by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, announced plans to bring a revised indictment against Blagojevich, who was arrested in December 2008 on federal corruption charges that involved conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and solicitation of bribery. He was later impeached and removed from office.
The new indictment includes many of the same charges as the first indictment, but downplays charges against “honest services fraud” that had been in the original indictment. That type of fraud is under review by the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Attorney’s office, headed by Patrick Fitzgerald, does not want the case to be endangered by an adverse ruling.
When asked today by U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel if he waived reading of the revised indictment, Blagojevich said, “Your honor, I waive reading and enter a plea of innocent to each and every charge.” Leaving the courtroom after entering his plea, Blagojevich told reporters he plans to testify at his June trial, Bloomberg reports.
In addition, Blagojevich also told reporters that he plans to waive his constitutional right to seek suppression of any of the eavesdropping and wiretap recordings collected by the government during its investigation of him, and ask federal prosecutors to agree that the recordings can be played at trial, Bloomberg reports. “Play the truth and play the whole truth,” Blagojevich said.
Blagojevich’s attorney, Sam Adam Jr., said, “We don’t have to prove Rod innocent, but the tapes will.”
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Could Chicago’s next mayor be David Hoffman? That’s the notion that at least some voters believe should be considered in Hoffman’s political calculations.
The former Assistant U.S. Attorney last week lost the Democratic primary to fill President Obama’s old Senate seat, finishing a strong second in a five-candidate field. Hoffman, who worked under Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, routinely heard from voters during the campaign that he was running for the “wrong office” — the “right” one being mayor of Chicago, The Chicago Sun-Times reports. The Chicago mayoral election is next year.
Hoffman, who was a federal prosecutor in the Northern District of Illinois from 1998 to 2005, has yet to comment on his political future, including whether he might mount a challenge to current Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley (D), according to the newspaper. Daley, who tapped Hoffman to be the city’s inspector general in 2005, has been the city’s mayor for more than two decades. “I’m just focused on taking a break and spending time with my family. I’m not really thinking much beyond the next few weeks,” Hoffman told The Chicago Sun-Times.
Daley, who has yet to decide if he will seek a seventh term, when questioned about Hoffman’s first campaign “sounded a bit defensive,” according to the newspaper. He told The Chicago Sun-Times, “Everybody worked hard. … Everybody did a good job. … I don’t know why you pick one person. Why is that? I know. You’re friends with him.” When asked if he was concerned about Hoffman running for mayor, Daley, who has a 35 percent approval rating, told the newspaper, “I don’t know. I don’t know why you’re asking about him. Boy, you’re really good friends with him.”
The Chicago Sun-Times reports, “The mayor’s comments unmasked a sore point in the Daley camp: that Hoffman used the power Daley gave him to embarrass the mayor, ‘create a platform to run for office out of City Hall’ and become a media darling.”
Patrick Collins, a partner with Perkins Coie, who worked as an Assistant U.S. Attorney with Hoffman, said he thinks it is unlikely that his former colleague would run for mayor. “He just spent a million bucks of his own money and put his family through a real difficult journey,” Collins told the newspaper.
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A federal grand jury on Thursday issued a new 113-page, 24-count indictment against former Illinois Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich, The Daily Herald of Chicago reports. Last month, the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Northern District of Illinois announced plans to bring a revised indictment against Blagojevich, who was arrested in December 2008 on federal corruption charges that involved conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and solicitation of bribery.
The new indictment includes many of the same charges as the first indictment, but downplays “honest services fraud,” according to the newspaper. That type of fraud is under review by the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Attorney’s office headed by Patrick Fitzgerald is concerned that the court’s ruling could hinder its case against the former governor. The honest services statute is under attack because, some critics argue, it fails to give fair warning of precisely what conduct violates the law
The new charges in the revised indictment include new counts of racketeering, attempted extortion, extortion conspiracy, bribery and bribery conspiracy, but “are based on the same underlying criminal conduct,” according to an accompanying filing. “Because the defendants’ illegal conduct violated multiple criminal statutes, additional statutes are charged.”
Randall Samborn, a spokesman for the Chicago U.S. Attorney’s office, told The Daily Herald, “There is no new substance to these charges.” Blagojevich’s attorney, Sheldon Sorosky, called the re-indictment “nothing more than warmed-up old soup.” He added that his client is innocent and will be vindicated at trial, The Daily Herald reports.
The indictment also names Blagojevich’s campaign manager Alonzo Monk, chief of staff John Harris and brother Robert, chairman of the Friends of Blagojevich campaign organization, as defendants. The Blagojevich aides, along with fundraisers Antoin Rezko and Chris Kelly were accused of running the “Blagojevich Enterprise.” The plan involved using political power to fund its members through government acts and bribery and then amass the money and divide it up after he left office, according to The Daily Herald.
Blagojevich is scheduled to be arraigned on Feb. 10. The trial is scheduled to begin June 3.
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A former federal prosecutor has lost the Democratic primary to fill President Barack Obama’s old Senate seat, finishing second in a five-candidate field.
David Hoffman, who was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Chicago under Patrick Fitzgerald, received almost 34 percent of the Democratic Senate primary votes on Tuesday, trailing Illinois state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, who captured 39 percent of the ballots.
The battle was for the right to appear on the November general election ballot to fill the seat being vacated by Democrat Roland Burris. Burris was appointed early last year to finish Obama’s Senate term but decided not to seek election to a full term.
With 99 percent of precincts reporting, The Associated Press called the election for Giannoulias, who earned 39 percent of the vote. He was followed by Hoffman with 33.8 percent, Chicago Urban League CEO Cheryle Jackson with 19.7 percent, physician Robert Marshall with 5.7 percent and attorney Jacob Meister with 1.8 percent.
Hoffman, who was a federal prosecutor in the Northern District of Illinois from 1998 to 2005, came under fire from Giannoulias for seeking campaign donations from his former colleagues. He had received endorsements from numerous news organizations, including The Chicago Tribune and The Chicago Sun-Times and numerous politicians and organizations.
Giannoulias will face Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) in November. Kirk won the GOP primary on Tuesday with 56.6 percent of the vote. He beat attorney Patrick Hughes who earned 19.3 percent, retired attorney Don Lowery. who got 8.9 percent, historian Kathleen Thomas, who got 7.3 percent, writer Andy Martin, with 5.1 percent, and management consultant John Arrington who garnered just 2.8 percent of the vote.
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Two men allegedly plotted to murder an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of Illinois and a Drug Enforcement Administration agent based in Chicago, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of Indiana, which is handling the case.
Last week, the FBI arrested Frank Caira and Jack Mann, who have been charged with solicitation to commit violence against another person. Read the Caira complaint here and the Mann complaint here. The targets of the plot were not named in court documents and were identified only as Victim 1 and Victim 2.
We reported earlier this month that threats against federal prosecutors rose during the last decade. Justice Department officials have pledged to address Justice Department Office of Inspector General concerns about the safety of prosecutors.
The alleged murder scheme stems from a drug case, which was against Caira, who Mann was allegedly trying to help, according to court documents.
Caira and Mann allegedly intended to a hire a person, who wanted to be paid about 4 kilograms of cocaine for the murders, according to court documents. The person contacted the FBI about the alleged plot after he couldn’t secure a down payment in cocaine from the men, according to court records. The person is also unnamed in court documents and is only indentified as CW1.
The Associated Press first reported the story today.
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Chicago-based U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and his wife, Jennifer Letzkus, got an early Christmas present. Their first child, Conor Patrick Fitzgerald, arrived on Dec. 21, Fitzgerald spokesman Randall Samborn confirmed. The U.S. Attoney for the Northern District of Illinois and Letzkus were married in 2008, according to ChicagoBreakingNews.com, a Tribune Company Web site.
Letzkus, a school teacher, and baby Conor made it home in time for Christmas, Samborn said. “Everyone is happy and healthy,” he said. Samborn said the office wasn’t releasing any photos but did provide this detail about the newborn: “He’s very cute.”