Reformers have praise for U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald (pictured), who’s stepping down at the end of June after 11 years on the job. Andy Shaw of the Better Government Association says Fitzgerald cleaned up Illinois, by putting away two former governors – George Ryan and Rid Blagojevich – as well as assorted mayors, mobsters and back-room dealers, such as Tony Rezko and William Cellini.
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“I think there is much less blatant, overt illegality. I give him a ton of credit for that,” Shaw said. A criticism is that Fitzgerald did push intermediate witnesses to get to the big fish. But Shaw says all of those who became prosecution witnesses in exchange for plea deals were themselves corrupt, and Harold J. Krent, dean of Chicago-Kent College of Law, says Fitzgerald didn’t invent the practice of “flipping” witnesses.
Brian Gladstein of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform says you can’t clean up politics through prosecution alone, but it helps. “It’s a really interesting time over the last decade in terms of what … prosecution has done to deal with corruption in our government,” he said. Gladstein says Fitzgerald went after low-level corruption as past prosecutors did, but he wasn’t afraid to go for the big fish too.