Departing prosecutor Fitzgerald rules out politics

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 07, 2012 12:40 PM
Departing prosecutor Fitzgerald rules out politics

By Andrew Stern

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Departing U.S. prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, known for being tough on corrupt politicians, ruled out running for political office himself on Thursday, but said public service is "in my blood."

"I'm not wired for campaigns or running for elective office," Fitzgerald, 51, said the day after he announced he would leave his post as the top Justice Department official in the Northern District of Illinois after 11 years.

"I love public service. I don't know what I'm going to do next. But public service is in my blood," Fitzgerald said at a news conference.

He prosecuted several high-profile terrorism cases in Chicago and as an assistant U.S. attorney in New York, where he began his career nearly 24 years ago after graduating from Harvard Law School.

He led the 2007 prosecution of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the chief of staff and national security adviser to former Vice President Dick Cheney. Libby was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice involving the leak of a CIA agent's name. Republican President George W. Bush commuted Libby's 30-month sentence.

Fitzgerald's name has been tossed around, mostly in media circles, as possibly the next director of the FBI, or even as the next commissioner of Major League Baseball.

He poured tepid water on those possibilities, saying he had no discussions with President Barack Obama's administration and had no reason to think he was on any short list for such jobs.

But Fitzgerald said he would certainly listen to any offers for government posts, once he "decompresses and figures things out" while taking time off this summer.

Once designated one of People Magazine's sexiest men, the now-married Fitzgerald, a father of two, said he viewed his chances of becoming baseball commissioner in much the same light - not in the realm of possibility.

"I love this town," the New York native and Mets fan said of his adopted hometown of Chicago, indicating he would be happy to stay.

Asked if he had any regrets about his performance as U.S. Attorney in Chicago, he said "a few."

One was when he announced the arrest of former Governor Rod Blagojevich on corruption charges and said Illinois legend Abraham Lincoln would be rolling over in his grave.

"It seemed like a good idea at the time," Fitzgerald said, eliciting laughter from solemn staff members watching what was likely his last news conference. "I wish I'd had a shower and some decaf ... I do regret that."

(Reporting By Andrew Stern; Editing by Greg McCune and Doina Chiacu)