Fitzgerald steps down

Brooklyn-born U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald, who oversaw prosecutions that led to the convictions of two Illinois governors, is stepping down. Fitzgerald, 51, and a former Irish Echo Irish American of the Year award winner, will leave the post on June 30.

In a written statement last week, Fitzgerald said he told the White House, Attorney General Eric Holder, and Illinois U.S. senators Richard Durbin and Mark Kirk about his decision. Fitzgerald has been in his current job since Sept. 1, 2001.

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Said Fitzgerald in a statement: "When I was selected for this position in 2001, I said that it was one of the greatest opportunities that one could ever hope for, and I believe that even more now after having the privilege of working alongside hundreds of dedicated prosecutors and agents.

"I have tried not to get in their way. I extend my deepest appreciation to the attorneys and staff for their determined commitment to public service. This was a great office when I arrived, and I have no doubt that it will continue to be a great office."

Later, at a press conference, Fitzgerald said he thought it was the right time to step down.

"I have to figure what I'm doing next," he told reporters while adding, "public service is in my blood."

Fitzgerald was born December 22, 1960 in Brooklyn, New York, son of the late Patrick Fitzgerald Sr. and Tillie Fitzgerald, both of whom had immigrated to the United States from County Clare.

Fitzgerald was educated at Regis High School, Amherst College and Harvard Law School. His career in law was going to be never less than stellar but, as it turned out, it would also be played out in the full glare of media and public scrutiny.

Fitzgerald's name began to appear prominently in the press in the 1990s when he emerged as a pivotal figure in the prosecution of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, who was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment after the investigation into the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. His reputation was already well established when, as U.S. Attorney for the northern district of Illinois, he was recalled to duty in Washington in 2005 to head the investigation into the leaking of the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame.

Fitzgerald's time in Illinois witnessed successful prosecutions against and the imprisonment of two governors, George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich.