Fitzgerald Goes Long Way to Challenge Himself

A man who's been bungee jumping even though he doesn't like heights, federal prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald (search) will go a long way to challenge himself.

The attorney behind the CIA leak investigation has taken on Democrats at Chicago City Hall as well as Republicans at the White House in a career that has included chasing terrorists and the mob. An old friend called him "Elliot Ness with a Harvard law degree and a sense of humor."

The 44-year-old New Yorker, now Chicago's chief federal prosecutor, is digging into Mayor Richard M. Daley's political empire, and corruption charges are flowing. At the same time he has been probing the disclosure of a CIA agent's identity in an investigation reaching to President Bush's top aides.

He's also behind the prosecution of former Gov. George Ryan (search) on charges that Ryan steered contracts to friends and insiders in return for free vacations and other gifts while he was Illinois secretary of state during the 1990s.

As the hard-driving son of a Brooklyn doorman jets between Chicago and Washington, he's fast becoming one of the country's best known federal prosecutors.

So intense has been his probe of payoffs and fraud at City Hall that rumors are flying about a possible effort by politicians to get Fitzgerald out of town. He brushes aside such questions.

"I'm just going to do my job until the telephone rings and somebody tells me not to," he said.

Friends say that even when Fitzgerald is not working, he stretches his boundaries.

U.S. Attorney David Kelley (search), his co-counsel in some New York cases, says the two of them have gone whitewater rafting, hang-gliding and even bungee jumping in New Zealand.

"Pat's not too big on heights," says Kelley. "I think that Pat likes to challenge himself and that speaks to the richness of his personality."

Fitzgerald says he grew up as part of "a typical Brooklyn, Irish-American group of guys," but he also attended a small private Catholic high school where he studied Latin and Greek.

He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Amherst College and then from Harvard Law School. After a three-year stint in a private law firm, he joined the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan, getting in on some high-profile cases and eventually heading the anti-terrorist unit.

In 1993, he helped jail a Gambino crime family capo and three other mobsters for murder, racketeering, narcotics trafficking and other crimes.

He helped send Omar Abdel Rahman (search) to federal prison for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and conspiring to blow up bridges and buildings.

And he supervised the 1996 trial of three men who plotted to blow up 12 airliners.

Fitzgerald also brought charges that Usama bin Laden (search) and 22 of his followers conspired to murder Americans and were responsible for the August 1998 bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa. Four defendants went to trial and are serving life.

Since he arrived in Chicago in 2001, dozens of city workers and trucking executives have been indicted in a payoff investigation, including the former boss at the city water department who was a political powerhouse.

In April, agents raided City Hall and came away with piles of records — resulting in fraud charges against two city officials from the mayor's family's home ward. They are accused of violating a long-standing court order against using politics as a basis for hiring workers.

Daley, whose father built the Chicago Machine with Election Day get-out-the-vote workers who held patronage jobs on the city payroll, says he is determined to reform hiring. But he emphasized that "for more than 30 years, through six administrations, such violations have been treated as civil matters — until now."

Matthew Piers, an attorney who has gone up against Fitzgerald, says he's overzealous.

Piers represented Enaam Arnaout, the head of a defunct Muslim charity whom Fitzgerald charged with funneling aid to al-Qaida. He said Fitzgerald, using an old photo showing Arnaout with bin Laden, hyped charges against his client as fear swept the country after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Arnaout made a last-minute deal to plead guilty to defrauding his donors. He is serving 11 years.