U.S. attorney: Speak up on corruption
By Natasha Korecki Sun-Times Media September 12, 2011 7:52PM
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald | Rich Hein~Sun-Times
Updated: November 9, 2011 4:56PM
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said he sometimes wants to smack people “upside the head” who tell him after he’s convicted someone that they knew all along the person was a crook.
“Seriously, speak up,” Fitzgerald said in a talk Monday to the City Club of Chicago.
“The one thing I find frustrating is that people view corruption as a law enforcement problem. If I had a dollar for everyone who has come up to me after we’ve convicted someone and said, ‘Yes, we knew he or she was doing that all the time but we wondered when someone was going to get around to doing something about it. And I bite my lip, but I wanted to smack them upside the head.”
He said the person who needs to do something about corruption is “you. It is my view that sometimes we say, ‘that’s the way it is in Illinois or that’s the way it is in Chicago.’ If you’re finding yourself saying that, what you’re really saying is, ‘That’s the way I will allow it to be.’
“You either speak up and do something about it or you’re part of the problem. That’s the only way to look at it.”
Fitzgerald, who recently marked 10 years on the job in Chicago, talked to the club about his time in New York City as a terrorism prosecutor and the changes he has seen in information sharing among law enforcement agencies.
That helped with the terrorism case involving David Headley, who has pleaded guilty to aiding a 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai, India, that claimed more than 160 lives, Fitzgerald said.
“Law enforcement, prosecutors and the FBI were married at the hip (in that case),” he said.
Headley was a key witness this summer in a federal trial that saw Chicago businessman Tahawwur Rana cleared of involvement in the Mumbai attack but convicted in a separate plot targeting a Danish newspaper that printed controversial cartoons of Prophet Muhammad.
Echoing a stance held by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Fitzgerald made a pitch in favor of prosecuting terrorists in civilian courts rather than by military commissions.
He argued that civilian courts aid in crucial intelligence gathering because there’s an opportunity for cooperation, there are more options for charging terrorists in civilian courts and that some countries refuse to extradite terrorists if they know they’ll go before a military commission.
Fitzgerald also reiterated a plea he’s made in the past to corporations to hire ex-felons to give them an alternative to returning to drugs or gangs and to committing more crime.
After the event, a member of the media asked, Who should hire former Gov. George Ryan?
“I’m not gonna go there,” Fitzgerald said.