Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Patrick Fitzgerald, Attention Hound
No, strike that
Some people get to a point in life where they come to believe that the percentage of angels and demons, geniuses and blockheads, and the normal bell-shaped distribution in between, is about the same in every field, in every club, in every everything.
Take me, for instance. I used to think prosecutors were the good guys. Now I don't think they're any better on the whole, in terms of competence (the OJ trial convinced me of that) or more importantly, virtue, than defense attorneys. Certainly, once one becomes familiar with enough cases in which prosecutors fight against the judicial consideration of rock-solid evidence which exonerates a wrongly convicted man, it just becomes impossible to feel sympathy with "sides" in general.
I guess what I'm saying is, there was a time when I probably would have regarded, without much thought, Chicago-based federal super-prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald as a hero. His behaviour in the Scooter Libby and Conrad Black cases, however, pretty much blew it for me. (And by the way, former Hollinger honcho and book-fixer David Radler, who cut a plea with Fitzgerald, tonight is sitting at home in Vancouver drinking warm cocoa and getting ready for Hannukah, while Conrad Black - whose guilt, such as it may be, to my mind is still unproven - is sitting in a penitentiary, as he will be for the next five years). Anyway, Fitzgerald's behaviour now with the Governor Blagojevich case is the last straw - it shows him to be a man far more interested in fame, scoring points at a personal level against his targets, and in everyone knowing what an "ass-kicking macho man" he is, than getting the job done right.
Getting the job done right, in the Blagojevich case, would have entailed, I think (could be wrong), actually waiting until the guy takes a bribe. You know? Wait till the guy takes the bribe, document that, and then you charge both him and the new Senator for paying the bribe. Bingo, you just two giant fish.
Instead, Fitzgerald gets a bunch of phone conversations on tape where Blagojevich talks about getting something back for a Senate appointment, then BOOM! - he calls another one of his big one-man-show Emmy caliber "Iiiiiiiiit's.....the Patrick Fitzgerald Show!" press conferences, worked up the indignation, called Blagojevich all sorts of names, talked about how outraged Abraham Lincoln, for Pete's sake, would have been...Like, I'm sick of this guy's drama queen theatrics. Enough already. Shut the hell up and do your ***xxxx job, you frigging publicity hound. (Can you believe he actually signed up to be on a radio game show last summer?) He's probably jeopardized the integrity of the case now by prejudicing pretty much every potential juror in the city. Even if he manages to get a conviction, there will now always be that taint.
Anyway, quite beyond the shamefulness of Fitzgerald using the court system as a platform for his rock star pretensions, he has now broken the code of ethics for prosecutors a number of times, and should be officially reprimanded. Victoria Toensing wrote an excellent piece in the Wall Street Journal on just that, and I think she's spot-on.
For the sake of the integrity of the American justice system, I think it's time for Fitzgerald to make his choice: be an ethical prosecutor, or quit law altogether and get your own "shouting head" talkshow on MSNBC.
Somehow, I think I know which one he'd choose...