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Pat Fitzgerald Retires As U.S. Attorney in Chicago After a Great 11 Years

US Attorneys are an important part of the litigation industry, and few of them can match Pat Fitzgerald, the US Attorney in Chicago for the past 11 years. Yesterday, Mr. Fitzgerald announced his imminent retirement from the job he did so very well. Set out below are excerpts from a Chicago Tribune article today – expect to see many more articles tracing an incredible 11 year run. Kudos to Mr. Fitzgerald and his strong team of Assistant US Attorneys.

"Patrick Fitzgerald will be most remembered for taking down two Illinois governors, but the prosecution of a ruthless ex-Chicago police commander may say more about the outgoing U.S. attorney’s style, boldness and willingness to risk a courtroom loss in pursuit of what he felt was right.

For decades, a parade of African-American men had accused Jon Burge of torturing them into false murder confessions that often led to long prison terms. Burge had even been fired for mistreating a suspect, but no criminal charges were ever filed and the retired cop had for years been living quietly in Florida collecting his police pension.

That is until Fitzgerald figured a way around statute-of-limitation problems that appeared to bar prosecution. A federal jury convicted Burge not of torture but of lying about it under oath during a civil lawsuit, and he was sentenced last year to 41/2 years in prison.

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"It’s sad that it took so long, but it would be horrible if it was never addressed," Fitzgerald said after the verdict.

On Wednesday, the 51-year-old Fitzgerald gathered staff in the ceremonial courtroom at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse to tell them he was retiring from the office effective June 30, ending his nearly 11 years in the sensitive post, by far a record-long run for a U.S. attorney in the Northern District of Illinois.

A notorious workaholic, Fitzgerald said he had no job lined up and planned to take the rest of the summer off, likely the longest free stretch in his entire adult life. Fitzgerald received a standing ovation and became emotional more than once during the meeting with staff, sources said.

"He came in without having any roots here. He came here with a great reputation, but he had to earn his spurs in this community," said former U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas. "And he certainly has done that. He has served with distinction and honor."

Patrick Collins, who spent six of his 12 years as a federal prosecutor under Fitzgerald, said Fitzgerald’s time in office "was like no other’s."

"It was a decade of successful, high-profile prosecutions by a guy who was unanimously well-liked inside the office," Collins said. "I don’t think any credible person could second-guess his motives. You could disagree with his prosecutions but not question his motives. That’s the ultimate compliment for a United States attorney."

The corruption convictions of former Govs. George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich stand as the marquee cases under Fitzgerald’s watch, but they were hardly the only high-profile ones: Lewis "Scooter" Libby, a top aide to then-Vice President Dick Cheney; scamming Chicago Sun-Times owner Conrad Black; murderous crime syndicate thugs such as Joey "the Clown" Lombardo; terrorism suspects; and an array of crooked political operatives including the patronage chief and streets and sanitation commissioner for former Mayor Richard Daley.

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About Kirk

Since becoming a lawyer in 1983, Kirk’s over 30 years of practice have focused on advising a wide range of corporations, associations, and individuals (as both plaintiffs and defendants) on both tort and commercial law issues centered around “mass torts.”

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