- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 23, 2012

CHICAGO — Patrick J. Fitzgerald, known as one of the most relentless U.S. attorneys in the nation and the architect of convictions against two Illinois governors and a former vice-presidential aide, announced Wednesday that he is stepping down from the post he has held for more than a decade in Chicago.

Mr. Fitzgerald has overseen thousands of criminal prosecutions and high-profile cases, including those against Illinois governors Rod Blagojevich and George Ryan, former Vice President Dick Cheney’s top aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, and media mogul Conrad Black. He took on public corruption, international terrorism, corporate fraud and organized crime.

His office announced Wednesday that he is stepping down effective June 30.

A statement from his office gave no reason for his decision to leave the presidentially appointed post he has held since Sept. 1, 2001. It said he would take the summer off before considering other job possibilities.

In the statement, Mr. Fitzgerald recalled how upon his appointment he considered the post “one of the greatest opportunities that one could ever hope for.”

“I believe that even more now after having the privilege of working alongside hundreds of dedicated prosecutors and agents,” he said.

Mr. Fitzgerald, who is married to a schoolteacher and has two young children, was scheduled to speak at a news conference on Thursday morning in Chicago.

Mr. Fitzgerald is leaving the Justice Department after nearly 24 years, including his time as an assistant U.S. attorney in New York. As a former senior Justice Department prosecutor, Mr. Fitzgerald faces a year of tight restrictions on which people he can interact with at the department.

As the top federal law enforcement official in northern Illinois, Mr. Fitzgerald was at the center of some of the biggest legal stories in the state’s history, including corruption convictions against Ryan, a Republican, and Blagojevich, a Democrat.

Nationally, Mr. Fitzgerald was tapped to be the special prosecutor who investigated the disclosure of the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame and eventually won a conviction against Mr. Libby for perjury and other offenses. President George W. Bush, who appointed Mr. Fitzgerald, later commuted Mr. Libby’s 30-month prison term.

Mr. Fitzgerald was among 10 or more people with strong credentials in law enforcement whose names were mentioned a year ago as possible nominees to succeed FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III as his 10-year term neared an end. President Obama decided to stick with Mr. Mueller, keeping him in place for another two years until September 2013.

During an appearance last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mr. Mueller said he has had discussions with Mr. Obama about potential successors, but “not very recently.”

“We are preparing for 2013, when we would expect a new individual to take the helm,” Mr. Mueller said.



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