Blagojevich trial ends Fitzgerald’s string of successes

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CHICAGO — Around here, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the United States attorney for the Northern District of Illinois and, lately, the overseer of the prosecution of former Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich, has been called a modern-day Eliot Ness. His name has been tossed about, without his participation, as a future mayor or governor or something. A radio host once introduced him as “the biggest Chicago guy or gal there is,” aside, maybe, from Oprah Winfrey.

So much fawning grew out of Mr. Fitzgerald’s willingness to take on seemingly anyone, whatever his or her office, with his aggressive prosecutions of mob leaders, a former police commander long accused of abuse, officials with ties to City Hall and, so far, two governors. But this week, when a jury failed to reach verdicts on all but one of 24 charges pursued against Mr. Blagojevich by three of Mr. Fitzgerald’s assistants, the outcome was widely viewed as a rare setback for Mr. Fitzgerald’s office — the largest such disappointment in a high-profile corruption case here in recent memory, former prosecutors said.

The outcome led some — Mr. Blagojevich and his lawyers, among them — to accuse Mr. Fitzgerald, the district’s longest-serving prosecutor, of going too far this time. The critics questioned the cost of retrying Mr. Blagojevich, as Mr. Fitzgerald has pledged to do, and the wisdom of public comments Mr. Fitzgerald made immediately after Mr. Blagojevich’s arrest about the governor’s conduct being such to make “Lincoln roll over in his grave.”

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