Patrick Fitzgerald has garnered considerable media attention prosecuting former Illinois Gov. George Ryan for political corruption and former aide to Veep Dick Cheney, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, for perjury. Now, the U.S. Attorney for Chicago has in his crosshairs the publisher and author of a forthcoming book critical of his performance while he served as Asst. U.S. Attorney in New York City.
Fitzgerald, who has been Chicago's top federal prosecutor since 2001, said he will sue HarperCollins if it publishes "Triple Cross" by Peter Lance later this month. In a letter to the publisher, Fitzgerald alleges the book defames him and casts him in a false light regarding his prosecution of terrorism cases during the 1990s.
According to Fitzgerald, the book portrays him as deceiving the court and blames him in part for the terrorist attacks on U.S. Embassies in East Africa in 1998 and the 2001 World Trade Center bombing. Lance denies leveling those charges, but counters that Fitzgerald has not responded to substantive allegations contained in the book.
A new edition of "Triple Cross" containing 26 additional pages and an introduction responding to Fitzgerald's accusations, is due out June 16.
Fitzgerald has received high marks for his handling of Gov. Ryan's corruption case, as well as the high-profile prosecution of the "blind sheik" Omar Abdel-Rahman in the 1995 Holland Tunnel bomb scare. Perhaps as an after-effect of being imbued with the considerable powers of a special prosecutor in the Libby case, Fitzgerald has forgotten the Constitution's First Amendment proscription against prior restraint. If Lance's work is shoddily researched and defamatory, then Fitzgerald can seek redress in the courts. Trying to preempt publication by threatening a lawsuit is censorship and beneath him.